Horses will read your emotions like an open book according to the latest research stemming from the Sussex University. A team of psychologists led by Karen McComb compiled an interesting read last year.
In a horse-whisperer fashion, the Sussex University team put together a dictionary of horses’ facial expressions. According to the team, these could indicate a wide range of emotions. Yet this year the researchers approached the matter of emotion-reading differently. It’s already known that horses are highly social animals. Is it possible that these majestic animals read human emotions as well as they express their own using facial expressions?
According to the research findings published in the Biology Letters journal, horses will read your emotions like an open book. The most suggestive sign that a horse understood you’re angry is its turning the left side of its head towards you.
Horses experience an increase in their heart rate when they spot an angry human around too. Of course it’s fairly difficult to feel the animal’s heart rate. Nonetheless, if your facial expressions suggest negative emotions such as anger when you approach horses, you’re bound to see the left side of their heads turn towards you.
Not only are horses able to read negative emotions or positive emotions, they’re also able to do so just by glancing at a photo. The Sussex University team selected 28 horses from stables in Sussex and Surrey and a cohort of volunteers to help out. Several photos were printed in high quality. The large size images depicted a man either frowning and baring his teeth, clear signs of negative emotions or smiling and baring his teeth, clear signs of positive emotions.
The horses were shown these images by the clueless volunteers. They weren’t allowed to influence the animals in any way. As such, they didn’t know which images were shown to the horses at any given moment. Amy Smith, Ph.D. student with the Sussex University’s mammal vocal communication and cognition research group stated:
“We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions”.
What’s also interesting is that the horses are able to read emotions despite the species barrier. Dogs are already known to do be able to read human emotions and facial expressions. This is the first study to reveal the same ability with horses.
Next time you approach these majestic animals, remember that horses will read your emotions like an open book.