Horses Learn Signs To Communicate With Humans

Posted: Sep 22 2016, 12:31am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Horses Learn Signs to Communicate With Humans
Poltergeist touches the board with the “blanket off” symbol. Credit: Cecilie M. Mejdell, Turid Buvikemail, Grete H.M. Jørgensen, Knut E. Bøe

A new study shows that horses can tell if they wanted a blanket put on or taken off, or stay unchanged using signs.

Horse people know that horses are smart animals. Now scientists have an impressive proof of that. Horses can learn to use signs with symbols on them to communicate with humans. The horses in the study, including Poltergeist shown in the photo, could tell if they wanted a blanket put on or taken off, or stay unchanged.

The researchers trained 23 riding horses of different breeds and ages. While speed of learning varied, all horses performed well within 2 weeks of training. Horses with warm-blood type needed fewer training days than cold-bloods (P < 0.05).

With this skill, horses are able to control of their comfort. Before the owners decided to put the blanket on or not. Now the horse can ask for the blanket or have it taken off. This is a dramatic difference.

The experiment shows how the horses made their decisions based on the weather conditions. If it was cold and wet they asked for a blanket. When the sun came out, the "new divas" wanted their blanket taken off again.

Horses are now in the group of elite animals such as primates and dolphins able to communicate with humans using a type of sign language.

The study is published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science. Read more news in Science.

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