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Scientists Say Horses Can Read And Remember Human Emotions

A study has shown that horses may have a far higher emotional radar than previously understood. Not only do horses read facial expressions, they can also remember a person's previous emotional state.

An experiment with dozens of horses was carried out and proved something quite amazing.

The horses were shown images of people with both negative and positive facial expressions and their natural reaction was recorded. Many hours later they met the same people all with a neutral facial expression... Here’s what they found.

Horses are able to identify the difference between angry and happy human facial expressions, this allows them to use the information to detect people who could pose a potential threat.  

The study showed that when viewing angry facial expressions, horses look more with their left eye which is a behaviour associated with perceiving negative stimuli. The horse’s heart rate also increased quicker and they displayed many more stress related behavioural traits when viewing a negative human expression.

Hours later the horses met the people they saw in the photographs but this time with neutral facial expressions. Researchers observed the horses as they met the photographed subject in person. The horses were wary of the people who had been photographed with negative expressions and perceived them as more of a threat.

"What's very striking is that this happened after just briefly viewing a photograph of the person with a particular emotional expression. They did not have a strongly positive or negative experience with the person."

These studies are the first to show the mammals can recall an expression linked with an individual's face.