I have a report to do for science class on animal behavior (middle school, fifth grade). My teacher, Mr. Brennan, said to pick a favorite animal species and a favorite type of behavior. My favorite animals are wild horses, and my favorite behavior is play. But do horses ever get to play? My mom and dad said you might know. Can you send me an answer right away? I have to do my report next month.


Sounds like Mr. Brennan is a great science teacher. Mom and Dad were right, I can answer your question. But as you know already, the magazine answer would not have been published in time for your report deadline. So I know you already got my e-mail answer and the photos in time for your report. Glad you got it done and in on time. Thank you for letting me share the answer with The Horse magazine readers.

All of the horse family (equids)–including horses, zebras, Przewalski horses, donkeys, and their relatives–play. At least it sure looks like play to everyone who observes it. The play is more common in young foals than in adult mares or stallions, just as it is more common in kids than in grown-ups. Adults seem to be busy doing other things most of the time, but the bachelor stallions play wrestle, with a rough-and-tumble sparring. They also chase each other in a playful, rather than serious, manner. The harem stallion, or “dad” in a breeding family group, often plays with the foals, yearlings, and two-year-olds of his group. The moms seem busy eating grass and making milk for the foal. They rarely are seen doing anything that looks like play.

Behavioral scientists have classified play behavior into two main types:

1) Solitary play (one animal playing alone, like running, jumping, exploring, frolicking, or playing with objects);

2) Social or group play (with one or more companions of the same species).

Young, healt