Research shows that horses are able to differentiate between happy and angry human facial expressions. In an experiment using photographs of male faces, researchers at the University of Sussex have shown that horses “responded negatively” to angry expressions. The researchers believe that our interactions with the horses may have enabled them to adapt and interpret human behavior.
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The research team conducted their tests at an equestrian school, where they presented large photographs to a total of 28 horses. One person showed the horse the photo while another held the horse. The study found that when the horse was shown a picture of an angry man, its heart rate increased significantly, using primarily their left eye to look at the picture.
And why the left eye? The reason is simple. The brain of horses and other mammals operate in a way where the input from the left eye is processed by the right side of the brain and the right side of the brain is developed to understand negative input.
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Last year, similar results were shown in a study of dogs, and it raises the question as to whether we humans may have influenced animals’ innate ability to recognize emotions, by spending so much time with them.
Another interesting result of this study is that that our behavior and mood have an influence on the horse at the very moment when we interact with it. Most of us who are very close to horses will certainly agree that our mood matters to the horses, but it is interesting that it has now been tested scientifically and it can open up an exciting insight into the relationship between horses and humans.
This video show how horses react upon human emotions.
This article was originally published in August 2020 and has since been revised and edited.