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Horses ask for human help when in difficulty, study shows
Researchers investigate horses’ social cognitive skills with humans

New research suggests that when horses are faced with a problem they cannot solve, they use visual signals to get help from their fellow humans.

In the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers investigated horses’ social cognitive skills with humans in a problem-solving situation.

In the first experiment, an assistant hid carrots in a bucket which the horses could not reach. The team watched to see how the horses sent signals to their caretakers, who were unaware of the situation.

The team observed the horses looking at, pushing and touching their caretakers to get their attention.

horse

In the second experiment, the team tested to see if the horses’ behaviour changed based on the caretakers knowing that the food was hidden. This study revealed that if the caretakers did not watch the food being hidden, the horses gave more signals.

‘The signalling behaviour of the horses significantly increased in conditions where the caretakers had not seen the hiding of the food,’ the authors conclude. ‘These results suggest that horses alter their communicative behaviour towards humans in accordance with humans’ knowledge state.’

Eight horses took part in the study, which was conducted by researchers at the Kobe University Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Japan.

Looking ahead, the team hope to compare communication between horses, as well as looking more closely at the social cognitive ability of horses in their communication with humans.

Article courtesy of mrcvs.co.uk