HOW HORSES ASK FOR HELP

EQUUS - - Eq Medicalfro­nt -

A new study from Ja­pan shows that horses aren’t too proud to ask for help when they need it. Or, at least, when car­rots are in­volved.

Work­ing at the Kobe Uni­ver­sity Grad­u­ate School of In­ter­cul­tural Stud­ies, re­searchers con­ducted two tri­als. In one, a horse and a care­taker watched as an ex­per­i­menter placed car­rots in a bucket that was just out of reach. In the sec­ond, the care­taker did not see whether car­rots were hid­den in the bucket.

The re­searchers then doc­u­mented any at­tempts the horse made to try to com­mu­ni­cate about the hid­den car­rots. They found that the horses used vis­ual (look­ing at) and tac­tile cues (nudg­ing or touch­ing) to get the at­ten­tion of the care­taker.

The horses used cues more often and more per­sis­tently in the trial when the bucket con­tained car­rots, as op­posed to the trial when it was empty, in­di­cat­ing that the horses were try­ing to de­liver a spe­cific mes­sage.

What’s more, the re­searchers found that if the care­taker was present when the car­rots were placed in the bucket, the horses were less per­sis­tent in their cues, in­di­cat­ing that they were ad­just­ing their sig­nals based on their per­cep­tion of hu­man knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

Ref­er­ence: “Do­mes­tic horses send sig­nals to hu­mans when they are faced with an un­solv­able task,” An­i­mal Cog­ni­tion, Novem­ber 2016

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