Mares and Foals Have Field of Vision Preferences

Researchers have learned that foals and dams appear to prefer looking at each other with their left eyes and keeping each other in their left field of vision in most situations.
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mare and foal behavior
Researchers have learned that foals and dams appear to prefer looking at each other with their left eyes and keeping each other in their left field of vision in most situations. | Photo: iStock

Horses have their side preferences—called lateralization—much like humans do. We’re typically left-handed or right-handed; they’re “left-legged” or “right-legged.”

But when it comes to foals and their mothers, the left eye bests the right almost every time. Russian researchers have learned that foals and dams prefer looking at each other with their left eyes and keeping each other in their left field of vision in most situations. The phenomenon is strong in both domestic and feral horses and even stronger—as their study results have shown—in the Przewalski’s horse. In other words, it’s a mother-infant lateralization that has stood the test of time, evolution, and domestication.

“The fact that visual lateralization exists in wild populations of horses indicates that this is their biologically relevant feature not associated with domestication,” said Karina Karenina, PhD, of the Saint Petersburg State University’s Faculty of Biology Department of Vertebrate Zoology. “Taking visual preferences into account in human-horse interactions may be beneficial for both humans and horses

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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