Thursday, October 9, 2008

Do horses possess cognitive reasoning?

Behind the bit recently relayed a story about Harvey the Horse's moment of genius. I found myself nodding in agreement.

I try not to anthropomorphize my pets. I think expecting them to behave as "baby humans in fur suits" creates an unrealistically high bar for them, and will cause me to be disappointed in them when they behave as animals. However, I frequently observe that they are more intelligent and feeling than "dumb animals".

When our family friend who trains Border Collies met Armani, she observed he had "dog like intelligence" and "probably gets into trouble a lot if he doesn't get enough mental stimulation". Armani is an equine Houdini. Some days he escapes more than once. He escapes more often on the days he doesn't see me. If he cannot open the latch, he'll break the latch; if he cannot get under the fence, he jumps the fence. Otherwise, he'll dismantle the fence. If it is electrified, he might chase a companion through it first.

Armani always whinnies when he sees me. If I take too long to get him out of the pasture, he can start squealing and working on the gate. He also displays jealousy if I spend time with other horses, particularly Huey. When I help mom with grooming and tacking Huey, Armani fusses. Does he reason that Huey is getting treats and attention from me that he wants for himself?

Morgans have a reputation for intelligence. Does he take after daddy's side of the family? I found these interesting observations on equine social intelligence including a Morgan. However, there's something to be said for Huey, who only wakes up from his stupor for treats; "from a subjective observation it was noted that the horses which learned quickest had also been the most difficult in training to ride".

You also may want to check out these photos from the Equine Research Foundation. They were featured on Animal Planet's Most Extreme: Thinkers episode where horses rated as #7. I'll have to record that episode next time it's on!

1 comment:

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm sure there are some horses who are much smarter than others and can reason things out. I've seen this in our herd. It's just like any other species including humans. Interesting post.