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Horses take social cues from other horses' ears and eyes

J. Wathan, K. McComb

IT is anecdotally well known that ears play a role in horse communication. This study aimed to investigate whether a horse's ears and eyes being covered or uncovered affected how another horse responded to it.

Seventy-two horses were included in the study. The experimental set-up included two buckets of feed placed against a wall and a photograph of a horse placed equidistantly between them. All photographs were of a horse's head in profile, facing either left or right. In two of the photos (one left, one right), the head was completely uncovered, with both eyes and ears visible; in another two the horse was wearing an ear mask and only the ears were covered; and in another two the horse was wearing an eye mask and only the eyes were covered. Each horse was lead out and walked in a circle of eight, before being released while facing towards the experimental set-up. Horses were monitored for two minutes and if they approached the set-up and ate from one …

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