What Can a Horse’s Facial Whorl Tell You?

A horse’s whorl could help predict which direction a horse will turn in response to a frightening stimulus.
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horse whorl
Horses with a clockwise whorl turned to the right and those with a counterclockwise whorl turned to the left when an umbrella opened unexpectedly in front of them. | Photo: iStock
What can the whorl on your horse’s face tell you? Perhaps more than you thought: Researchers have learned that the height, location, and rotation direction of a horse’s facial hair whorl could help predict which direction your horse will turn in response to a frightening stimulus.

In a study of 19 horses, researchers determined that those with a clockwise whorl turned to the right and those with a counterclockwise whorl turned to the left when someone opened an umbrella unexpectedly in front of them.

“I was a little surprised that we found a correlation in mature, trained horses,” said Chelsey Shivley, DVM, a PhD candidate in Colorado State University’s Department of Animal Sciences, in Fort Collins.

Although the sample size was relatively small, “this is an interesting area of research,” Shivley said. “There is definitely room for more knowledge in laterality, especially from animals that we ask to perform maneuvers in both directions

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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