Animals, whether big or small, are complex beings. They all have their unique traits that humans have been exploring and trying to understand for years. Of special interest are usually those animals that share a deeper bond with human beings.
While you may know of a dog’s connection with its human owner, you probably don’t know that horses are not only capable of connecting with humans on an emotional level, but they can also read your facial expressions.
They Know What You’re Feeling
The study comes from a group of psychologists at Sussex University. The same people last year determined that horses can show emotions through certain facial expressions. This new study shows that horses have the ability to differentiate between positive and negative human expressions, which is a major breakthrough as far as the connection between horses and humans is concerned.
A Glance From the Left Eye
The researchers found that a horse’s reaction to a negative human facial expression is very easily noticeable. As is often seen with dogs, horses who identify an angry human face move their heads and look at the face with their left eye. There is an increase in their heart rate as well.
The reason for glancing at an angry human face from the left eye is contributed to the fact that it is the right hemisphere of the brain that analyses stimuli that are threatening or scary, and it is from the left eye that the right hemisphere gets its visual information. So if you’re angry around your horse some day and you see it looking at you from its left eye, then you can be sure that it is reading your emotions.
Photographs Work Equally Well
The extent to which horses can understand human emotions can be realized from the fact that they can successfully identify positive and negative human expressions even from photographs.
The group of researchers got large sized photographs of strangers printed, in which they were either baring their teeth while smiling or baring their teeth with a frown. It was quite a discovery when the horses could successfully tell the difference between those expressions just as they would if a person was standing right in front of them.
Animal Behavior is Far From Trivial
Before this study, it has been found out that dogs also possess the ability to identify if a human is angry. Sheep are known to be calmed by looking at photographs of other sheep. They can even remember the faces of other sheep as well as human beings.
But this study pertaining to horses has taken all of the prior knowledge to a whole new level. Researchers speculate that the ability of reading human emotions may have been the result of evolution, or some individual horses could have learned to read the facial expressions of humans and that knowledge was then passed on through genes. Whatever the answer to this question is one thing is for certain, horses possess a much deeper understanding of human behavior than we normally give them credit for.
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