Can horses read human facial expressions?

Horses can apparently interpret the expressions of human faces or distinguish emotions in them. Scientists from the British University of Sussex have now found this out. The study, published in Biology Letters, a scientific journal in the field of biology, reaffirms those who believe horses are exceptionally capable of empathy.

Horses are extremely social and empathetic animals that people often do very well "read" can – Shutterstock / Vasyl Syniuk

Horses are extremely social and empathetic animals that are often very good at “reading” people – Shutterstock / Vasyl Syniuk

The scientists base their results on work with 28 horses from five different stables. To test how the horses react to human facial expressions, they were shown large portrait photos of men either laughing politely or looking angry and angry.

Horses can distinguish human facial expressions

“We found that the horses paid close attention to the photos with the different facial expressions,” Amy Smith, lead author of the study, told the Huffington Post. If the horses were shown pictures with angry faces, the heart rate increased significantly. The animals also increasingly turned their heads and looked at the negative images with their left eye. Horses do this because their left side interacts with the right side of the brain, which is responsible for processing negative emotions.

So they saw danger, or at least something unsettling, in the portraits. The scientists therefore agree that the horses can recognize negative or negative facial expressions in human faces and distinguish them from positive facial expressions.

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Animals are more responsive to threats

“It’s interesting that horses show a strong response to negative expressions and less to positive ones,” Smith continues. “This is because it’s more important for animals to respond to threats in their environment.” When the horses in the study were shown pictures of smiling or laughing people, there were no major reactions. The heart rate did not increase significantly, nor were the faces viewed more with the left “danger eye”. “Emotional attention is extremely important for a socially sophisticated species like horses,” said Amy Smith.

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