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Domestic horses (Equus caballus) prefer to approach humans displaying a submissive body posture rather than a dominant body posture

By Amy Victoria Smith, Clara Wilson, Karen McComb, Leanne Proops

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Signals of dominance and submissiveness are central to conspecific communication in many species. For domestic animals, sensitivities to these signals in humans may also be beneficial. We presented domestic horses with a free choice between two unfamiliar humans, one adopting a submissive and the other a dominant body posture, with vocal and facial cues absent. Horses had previously been given food rewards by both human demonstrators, adopting neutral postures, to encourage approach behaviour. Across four counterbalanced test trials, horses showed a significant preference for approaching the submissive posture in both the first trial and across subsequent trials, and no individual subject showed an overall preference for dominant postures. There was no significant difference in latency to approach the two postures. This study provides novel evidence that domestic horses may spontaneously discriminate between, and attribute communicative significance to, human body postures of dominance; and further, that familiarity with the signaller is not a requirement for this response. These findings raise interesting questions about the plasticity of social signal perception across the species barrier.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Animal Cognition
Volume 21
Pages 307-312
Publisher Springer
DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-017-1140-4
URL https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10071-017-1140-4
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Communication
  3. Dominance
  4. Emotions
  5. Horses
  6. Human-animal relationships
  7. Mammals
  8. open access
  9. Posture
Badges
  1. open access