The secret lives of horses

ponies

Friendships come and go. Foals grow up and move away. New research reveals how sophisticated equines really are.

From: Salon
By: Wendy Williams of Scientific American

Why they’re more like humans than you’d ever imagine

ponies

Cute baby ponies nursing!

Some time around 35,000 years ago, when much of Europe was locked up in sheets of ice, an artist acquired a bit of mammoth ivory and began carving. A masterpiece emerged in the form of a two-inch-long horse. Its magnificently arched stallion’s neck combines muscular potency and natural grace. Its head, slightly cocked, gives the animal an air of deep contemplation. One can almost hear him snort and see him toss his head, warning rivals to take care. No one knows who created this miniature marvel, dubbed the “Vogelherd horse” after the cave in Germany in which it was found, but it is clear that this ivory carver spent a lot of time watching wild horses, studying their social interactions and learning their body language.

Sadly, in the modern world, this pastime became something of a lost art. Equine scientists have studied the best way to train show horses, the best way to feed racehorses, the best way to heal the delicate bones in a lame horse’s feet. But in contrast to the behaviors of wild chimpanzees, whales and elephants, among other species, the natural ways of horses have rarely garnered scientific interest. And of the few studies that were done, very few were long-term projects.

Recent efforts have begun to fill that gap—with surprising results. Scientists have documented behaviors among free-ranging horses that upend many long-held ideas about how these animals bond and interact with one another.

Mares vs. stallions
Horses are unusual among hoofed mammals. Many members of this group typically roam in large herds, seeking safety in numbers. Wild horses, in contrast, live year-round in small groups, or bands, of three to 10 individuals. Closely allied mares and their young offspring form the core of the band.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
2 Comments
  • Maggie Frazier

    I read this article a while ago – very interesting – but not so surprising. Sad that more study hasnt been done on our wild horses and burros.

    September 30, 2015
  • mustang man

    Jason Ramson was also the USGS researcher that hammered the BLM/Forest Service for their handling and procedures for counting and rounding up wild horses. He gave the NAS a 90 minute report that detailed every problem there is with the current management techniques. Oddly enough he left the USGS shortly after. I know he started his Phd work so it may be coincidentally but still the timing was suspect. Honest researcher that knows his stuff!!!!

    September 30, 2015