Horses too can sense our emotions

Washington : A team of scientists has found that horses are able to read human facial expressions.

Psychologists studied how 28 horses reacted to seeing photographs of positive versus negative human facial expressions. When viewing angry faces, horses looked more with their left eye, a behaviour associated with perceiving negative stimuli.

Their heart rate also increased more quickly and they showed more stress-related behaviours.

The University of Sussex study concludes that this response indicates that the horses had a functionally relevant understanding of the angry faces they were seeing. The effect of facial expressions on heart rate has not been seen before in interactions between animals and humans.

Amy Smith, who co-led the research, said that it shows that horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier. People have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species, but this is the first time they have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions.

Smith added that the reaction to the angry facial expressions was particularly clear – there was a quicker increase in their heart rate, and the horses moved their heads to look at the angry faces with their left eye.

The study is published in Biology Letters. (ANI)