If you're convinced some horses can learn from each other, even though researchers have not previously been able to confirm it, you’re on the right track. Scientists just had to take a little closer look into the details of who’s doing the learning.
Younger, lower-ranking, and more curious horses are much more likely to exhibit “social learning”—learning by watching other horses, according to study results from German and Scottish scientists.
“This study is the first to clearly demonstrate social transfer of feeding behavior in horses,” stated the researchers, led by Konstanze Krueger, PhD, of the University of Regensburg in Germany. “Misconceptions about the horse’s sociality may have hampered earlier studies.”
This isn't the first time researchers have evaluated whether horses can watch and learn. Line Peerstrup Ahrendt, MSc, performed two social learning studies that yielded conflicting results. In the first, 3-year-old groups of geldings appeared capable of social learning, with half of those horses learning to open a box of food by watching another horse do it first. However, when Ahrendt employed 44 horses of mixed age and social groups, the trend didn’t continue.
Krueger’s study specifically targeted social learning with attention to age and social ranking. She and her fellow researchers took five established herds and kept them in their intimate social groups of between three and 12 horses, she said. They then specifically chose a middle-aged, middle-ranking horse to be the &ldqu