pair of horses Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council

Horses make facial expressions just like humans

This article in National Geographic notes how our equine friends use 17 discrete facial movements to communicate.

Let’s face it: When it comes to expressions, a horse is no one-trick pony. Recent findings have revealed that our equine friends use 17 discrete facial movements to communicate. That’s 10 fewer than humans—but one more than dogs and four more than chimpanzees.

Researchers at the University of Sussex discovered this by dissecting a horse head and identifying the musculature below its facial features. Then they watched behavioral footage—15 hours of video showing 86 male and female horses, from a variety of breeds, ranging in age from four weeks to 27 years.

The last step was to use a tool called EquiFACS (Equine Facial Action Coding System) to catalog the eye, lip, nostril, and chin movements they’d observed. The result: a gestural map that suggests evolutionary parallels among varied species.

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