Scientists haven’t given too much attention to the significance of horse snorting before now. The expulsion of air through the equine nose has normally been connected with “clearing phlegm, flies or other irritants”.
But now researchers in France say that these blow-outs are a key indicator of what’s going on in the equine mind.
They found horses living in relaxed environments produced far more snorts than those in stressful conditions.
Why the long face?
Understanding when a horse is feeling happy, scientifically, is quite difficult. Cats are easy by comparison; their purring is a clear sign of contentedness. Horses give off conflicting signals – their heart rates increase at the anticipation of food, but decrease during grooming, something that humans generally believe they enjoy.
Some people believe that horses being playful are showing they are happy. But researchers say that this isn’t always the case, as play can be a “coping mechanism” when horses are faced with unexpected events, and it may also be a way of reducing social tension in the group.
In this study, the scientists wanted to test the anecdotal idea that snorting in horses occurs more often in positive situations.
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