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Cognition and learning in horses (Equus caballus): what we know and why we should ask more

By L. Brubaker, M. A. R. Udell

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Horses (Equus caballus) have a rich history in their relationship with humans. Across different cultures and eras they have been utilized for work, show, cultural rituals, consumption, therapy, and companionship and continue to serve in many of these roles today. As one of the most commonly trained domestic animals, understanding how horses learn and how their relationship with humans and other horses impacts their ability to learn has implications for horse welfare, training, husbandry and management. Given that unlike dogs and cats, domesticated horses have evolved from prey animals, the horse-human relationship poses interesting and unique scientific questions of theoretical value. There is still much to be learned about the cognition and behaviour of horses from a scientific perspective. This review explores current research within three related areas of horse cognition: human-horse interactions, social learning and independent learning in horses. Research on these topics is summarized and suggestions for future research are provided.

Publication Title Behav Processes
Volume 126
Pages 121-131
ISBN/ISSN 0376-6357
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2016.03.017
Language English
Author Address Oregon State University, Department of Animal & Rangeland Sciences, Corvallis, Oregon,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavioral research
  5. Cognition
  6. Horses
  7. Learning
  8. Mammals
  9. Psychiatry and psychology
  10. Relationships
  11. Social behavior
  12. Social psychology and social anthropology
  13. Sport animals
  14. training of animals
  15. ungulates
  16. vertebrates
  17. Veterinary sciences
  18. welfare
  19. Zoology