Horses Recognize Emotions, Just Like Humans

First Posted: Feb 10, 2016 06:39 PM EST

As it turns out, horses can tell when you're happy and sad, too.

Researchers at the University of Sussex found that these animals hold the ability to distinguish between positive and negative human emotions. After showing them life-size images of humans who were either smiling or barring their teeth while angry, researchers found that horses distinguished between negative facial expressions by turning their head to the side and looking out of their left eye. 

"What's really interesting about this research is that it shows horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier," said a doctoral student at the university, via TIME. "We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions."

During the study, researchers looked at close to 30 horses who were shown large color photographs of different facial expressions for 30 seconds. Then, psychologists measured their reactions to the pictures. 

"Recognizing angry faces may act as a warning system, allowing horses to anticipate negative human behavior such as rough handling," said Smith.

The findings go along with a similar study published last year by researchers at Sussex University--revealing that horses hold 17 discrete facial expressions to indicate mood.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters

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