Horses ‘talk’ with their eyes, ears

LONDON (TIP): Horses are sensitive to the facial expressions and attention of other horses, including the direction of the eyes and ears. British researchers have observed that horses rely on the head orientation of their peers to locate food.

However, that ability to read each other’s interest level is disrupted when parts of the face – the eyes and ears – are covered up with masks. The ability to correctly judge attention also varied depending on the identity of the horse pictured, suggesting that individual facial features may be important. “Our study is the first to examine a potential cue to attention that humans do not have: the ears,” says Jennifer Wathan of the University of Sussex.

“Previous work investigating communication of attention in animals has focused on cues that humans use: body orientation, head orientation and eye gaze; no one else had gone beyond that. However, we found that in horses their ear position was also a crucial visual signal that other horses respond to.

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