The emotions behind snorting
The acoustic expression of positive emotions is poorly know in many animals, like horses. Recent studies suggest that snorting can be a reliable indicator of positive emotions in ungulate species.
Snorting is a non-vocal sound produced by air expiration through the nostrils. Hypothesized is that the acoustic sound and structure of the snort can vary considering the emotional state. The aim of the study was to see if snorts can be an indicator of positive emotions in horses.
Firstly a preliminary analysis was performed which revealed the presence of pulsations in snorts. Secondly snorts from 20 horses were recorded. Auditory playbacks reviewed by 20 humans confirmed two snort types. One was pulsed and one non-pulsed. After this the types of snorts were compared to the locations as a determinant of the horses’ internal state and to its ears position to reflect the emotional state.
The study found that both types of snorts were preferentially observed in positive contexts, but pulsed snort were most associated with appreciated situations, like when in pasture with ears forward.
Expert opinion by Anouk van Breukelen
This study helps the identification of positive emotions in horse and in general the understanding of acoustic emotions' coding.
> From: Stomp et al., The Science of Nature 105 (2018) 57. All rights reserved to Springer-Verlag GmbH. Click here for the online summary.