Horse Behavior – Best Understood from the View that Horses Are Prey Animals


by Al Badia

Horses are not particularly vocal, but do have four basic vocalizations: the neigh or whinny, the nicker, the squeal and the snort. They may also make sighing, grunting or groaning noises at times. Ear position is often one of the most obvious behaviors that humans notice when interpreting horse body language.

Horse behavior is best understood from the view that horses are prey animals with a well-developed fight-or-flight response. Their first reaction to a threat is often to flee, although sometimes they stand their ground and defend themselves or their offspring in cases where flight is untenable, such as when a foal would be threatened

Nonetheless, because of their physiology horses are also suited to a number of work and entertainment-related tasks. Humans domesticated horses thousands of years ago, and they have been used by humans ever since. Through selective breeding, some breeds of horses have been bred to be quite docile, particularly certain large draft horses. On the other hand, most light horse riding breeds were developed for speed, agility, alertness, and endurance; building on natural qualities that extended from their wild ancestors.


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