Home Horse Behavior Study Suggests Horses Can Recognize Their Keepers From Photographs

Study Suggests Horses Can Recognize Their Keepers From Photographs

by Modi Ramos

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Horses are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for. And it goes without saying that horses have a long history of interacting with humans. We’ve covered studies that revealed that horses do, in fact, recognize and identify their favorite humans. But new data tells us that horses can even identify individuals that they interact with often simply by looking at a photograph.

We know that since horses are prey in the wild, they are not naturally trusting and are also instinctually wary of humans. Many people are fascinated with the way that a horse’s mind thinks and views the world. 

Susanne Bard is a science writer and multimedia producer who regularly contributes to Scientific American. As part of the podcast series Scientific American: 60-Second Science, Susanne discussed a study that revealed the data below. The study was conducted by Ethologist Léa Lansade of the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment. Lansade has conducted several groundbreaking studies on our equine friends over the course of her professional career.

A recent study on horse memory and behavior revealed that horses possess the ability to pick out their current keepers just by looking at photographs.

And what’s even more impressive is that they could spot former keepers that they hadn’t seen in months at a rate higher than simply chance.

When shown the images, the horses in the study “correctly identified their current keeper and ignored the stranger’s face about 75 percent of the time, significantly better than chance.”

Wondering how the study was conducted? Susanne says that Lansade and her team “first taught the horses how to ‘choose’ between two side-by-side images by touching their noses to a computer screen. The horses were then shown photos of their current keeper alongside faces of unfamiliar humans.”

If you’d like to check out the full transcript from the podcast, click here.

Think someone you know who loves horses would find this study interesting? Don’t forget to share it with them. 

Did you know that studies have shown that there is a clear emotional transfer between humans and horses? Read about it here on iHeartHorses.com.


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