Horses and Dogs Understand and Adapt to Each Other in Play

An Italian study found horses and dogs can play together, communicating their intentions of playing and reading and mimicking each other’s facial expressions.
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Horses and Dogs Understand and Adapt to Each Other in Play
A recent Italian study found that, in general, dogs and horses seem to “understand each other” when it comes to play, and they adapt their behaviors accordingly. | Photo: iStock
A predator. A prey animal. And the pasture, their playground.

If you’ve ever seen dogs and horses interact in playful behavior, you’ve glimpsed a natural phenomenon. These two highly different, yet highly domesticated mammals can play together, communicating their intentions of playing and reading and mimicking each other’s facial expressions, according to Italian researchers.

“There are behaviors that go beyond the very nature of the animal (prey/predator),” said Veronica Maglieri, an ethology student in the Department of Biology at the University of Pisa, in Italy.

“It’s really amazing to watch animals chasing each other, rolling around, and even biting each other without ever showing any doubt about the playful intentionality of their actions,” she said. “This really gives us an indication of the cognitive complexity of these animals

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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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