Science & Equine

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Written by Anouk van Breukelen
Posted in Social behavior

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Horse whinnies: a source of social information

For animals living in social groups, like horses, it is known that they regularly interact with other animals. Frequently these signals are vocal, for horses this is whinnying. In other species such calls can contain information about: species, sex, kinship, emotional state, hierarchical status and social bonding.

The results show that some of the frequency and temporal parameters carry reliable information about the caller’s sex, body size and identity. Not only did the horses discriminate the social category of the caller but also reacted with sound-specific behaviour. No correlations with age were found and the control sounds did not induce any particular response.

Expert opinion by Anouk van Breukelen

These results provide more insight into the perception of the social world in horses. Further research on a larger group of horses is required to confirm the results and to get more insight in the vocal coding/ decoding processes of (social) information in horses.

> From: Lemasson et al., Animal Cognition 12 (2009) 693-704. All rights reserved to Springer-Verlag. Click here for the online summary.

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