As many horse owners know, their animals often display surprisingly innovative behaviors. A study by the Nürtingen-Geislingen University of Economics and Environment (HFWU) and the University of St Andrews in Scotland investigated whether this behavior is part of the animal’s natural repertoire.
Which horseman can’t sing a song about the many tricks of his furry four-legged friends? They come with some tips on how to get the treats you love, how to take an unplanned walk and much more.
Scientists from the HFWU and the University of St Andrews in Scotland asked themselves whether such innovations arise out of necessity or arise when there is abundance – that is, evolved behavior that is not shown in the natural behavioral repertoire of horses, Or it does have natural horse behavior that is used in an unusual, new context.
In a “Crowd Sourcing Study” they asked horse owners to report “unusual” horse behavior and received over a thousand reports with many examples of such innovative behavior.
Horses often repeated the same innovations to meet their needs for free movement, social interaction, and feed. For example, they open door and gate locks to escape or to reach social partners and better sources of food. Some showed amazing skill at unraveling knots by breaking free from holsters or tying ropes. They threw bowls of food at their owners’ feet or they hit the trees until the apples fell.
However, the truly creative, innovative horses were found when all their basic needs were met. Under such favorable conditions, individual horses showed a wide range of different innovations, often in behavioral terms of sport and leisure. The horses piled up comfortable hay beds to sleep on, scratched their stomachs with sticks, played tag with sticks, brushed each other, turned the lights on and off, kept the stable or removed bandages and blankets sometimes. Open a variety of locks without leaving complicated. Close.
Horse owners who want to promote a truly innovative “Horse Einstein” should make sure they are not lacking in anything. However, if a horse is kept in less than ideal conditions, some owners will be amazed at the targeted problem-solving strategies that many of their favorite horses can come up with.
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