Communication between domesticated horses and humans
Due to being in close relationship with humans, domestic animals may have developed social interaction and communication skills with humans.
There have been various studies about social communication between humans and dogs, which has been suggested to be influenced by domestication. Like dogs, horses have had a close relationship with humans since they were domesticated around 6000 years ago. Previous studies about horses have indicated that they are sensitive to body signals and the attentional state of humans. However, there are few studies about communication with humans.
Eight thoroughbred horses participated in this study, with each their own caretaker with whom they interacted with more than other humans. The horses were fed four times a day so they were not food deprived. The experiment contained one test and two control conditions. Examined was if the horses changed their behaviours on the basis of the caretakers knowledge of where the food was hidden.
The signalling behaviour of horses increased significantly in conditions where the caretakers had not seen the hiding of the food. These results suggest that horses change their communicative behaviour towards humans in accordance with humans´ knowledge state. This study suggests that horses may have a more advanced cognitive ability. However, further research is needed to confirm this in a larger scale experiment.
> From: Ringhofer, Animal Cognition 20 (2017) 397-405. All rights reserved to Springer- Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016 . Click here for the online summary.