A recent study published in the scientific journal Applied Animal Behavior Science makes the subject of inter-species communication even more interesting. In Norway, 23 horses took part in the experiment, and with a system put in place by the scientists, they were able to communicate with humans.
At the end of this period of experiments, which only lasted two weeks, horses were clearly able to communicate whether they were cold and wanted to be covered with a blanket or whether they were, in fact, too hot and wanted to have the blanket taken off.
The horses used their muzzle to select one of three options on a board. The first image, showing a horizontal line, meant they were cold and needed a blanket. The second showed a vertical line, meaning they were warm and needed the blanket to be taken off. The third option was an empty box and meant that they felt comfortable in their current situation.
In order to optimise the accuracy of the horses' responses, the scientists placed them in a very warm room with a blanket, or outside in the cold without a blanket. Each time the animal chose the function which seemed to match with his situation, whether he was shivering of cold or sweating under the blanket, he was offered a juicy carrot.
When their responses weren't in line with their situation, like when a horse who had no blanket chose the option to remove the blanket, they wouldn't receive a carrot. After 15 minutes of intense training every day for two weeks, the horses managed to have accurate responses 100% of the time.
An even more positive result was that once the horses realised they could effectively communicate with humans, they expressed a desire to do it after the experiment period. For example, they tried to attract the scientists' attention by clicking on the button requesting their blankets to be removed, even as the scientists were standing close to them.
As they did this, the horses were in fact sweating and clearly getting too hot. So it can be concluded that their objective was to really communicate their feelings, and not just to get a carrot.
The experiment proved in a semi-certain way that these animals are capable of using tools when they understand the outcome, and are able to communicate their current state, recognise symbols and also to remember the consequences of their choices.
In the months following the study, the scientists noticed that the horses continued to regularly communicate with their owners in the same way if they were feeling hot or cold. This is important progress for the future of humans understanding animals' feelings and experiences. It's also a dream come true for horse lovers around the world who now have scientific proof that their beloved animals understand them...