Horses can communicate with us about the weather. Here's how
Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 3:43 PM - How's the weather? It might sound like small-talk, but for a horse, it could be the start of a telling conversation.
A study from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences found that horses can communicate with us about the weather by pointing to pictures, making the subspecies one of a small group of animals that can interact with humans through use of visuals.
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Researchers spent 10 to 15 minutes each day training a group of 23 steeds to understand the meaning of three different symbols. Eleven days later and each horse could identify the following meanings: "Blanket on," "blanket off," and "no change."
If the horses were were hot, they would indicate that they want the "blanket off" by pointing to the appropriate symbol, and vice versa for feeling cold. If they were comfortable with the temperature, the horses would opt for "no change."
"Horses were then tested under differing weather conditions," the study reads. "Results show that choices made, i.e. the symbol touched, was not random but dependent on weather. Horses chose to stay without a blanket in nice weather, and they chose to have a blanket on when the weather was wet, windy and cold."
The findings showed that the horses had both an understanding of the outcome of their choice on comfort, as well as their competence to demonstrate preferences by use of symbols.
(Pictured Below: Image of Romano, Katug, and Poltergeist photographed in their choice situations. All horses had a blanket on and had to choose between “blanket off” or “no change.” In the two winter situations (left and middle) both horses touch the blank “no change” display board, whereas Poltergeist (right) touches the board with the “blanket off” symbol.
The study was published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
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Study images and findings courtesy of Applied Animal Behaviour Science