Are Horses Smart? Here's How Intelligent Horses Are!

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Mar 11, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 16, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Friesian horse standing in grass.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.2 Min

Horses are seen as one of the most majestic animals to have walked the Earth because of their slender body type.

Throughout the passage of time, horses have enjoyed a place in the human community as lovable companions and great working animals. As of now, the number of domestic horses significantly outnumber the feral horses and it is presumed that about 10% of the horse population in the USA is feral.

Horses and humans have had a long-standing relationship with each other and the domestication of horses date back to 6,000 years ago, and in some cases, it is estimated to be even earlier than the presumed date.

These animals have maintained their position as great companions and working animals over the years through the service that they provide to humans, ranging from sporting competitions to domestic chores.

Free-roaming horses are seen as the descendant of horses that were brought to the country by European settlers.

If you like this article about are horses smart, then be sure to check out articles about horses and what is the heaviest thing on earth too!

How smart are horses compared to other animals?

There are many horse owners who claim that their equine companions are pretty clever and have knowledge of their surroundings. As a matter of fact, there are various researches that have proved that horse intelligence is there for comparison against other wild and domestic animals. Horses have been known to recognize human emotions, just like dogs.

There are various stories that tell us how some horses acted upset and refused to heed their owner's call because of their grumpy mood. Various researches have shown that the horse's brain works in various ways and can even in some cases, perceive emotions just at a glance of a photograph.

The facts about the horse intelligence are still not clear as they should be, but there are pieces of evidence that support the claims that horses do learn from human interaction and will make associations if and when required.

According to a test done by researchers, they taught the horses to talk to them by touching their muzzle to sign if they needed a rug or not under different weather conditions.

In cold or rainy weather, when their muzzle was touched, the horses asked for a rug, and in the sunny weather, the horse communicated through head bobbing that they did not need a rug because they were warm enough!

If you are wondering if horses are smarter than other animals, then it is safe to assume that there is no simple answer to that question as there is no straight-up answer to this because intellect across classes varies and what is acknowledged to be clever for one animal, may not be the same for the other.

Because of these facts, it is quite impossible to measure the intelligence of different species with each other as these tests make no sense for them. The IQ quotient of a horse is tough to state as there is no way to put a score on the IQ of animals like it can be done for humans.

Horses have learned over the years to communicate with their owners and as a method of surviving in the wild, they also communicate with other animals through body language to receive information about any sort of trouble brewing around them.

The domestication of these animals by humans has certainly played a role in these animals using more of their brains to understand emotional behavior and in some cases, even speech.

In this day and age, horses have become more of a companion animal rather than just a mode of transportation.

This evolution is thanks to these animals' social skills that have been sharpened through interaction with humans that has enabled these animals in forming a strong bond with humans, and if they are treated well, they will give their best service to us.

Another aspect that plays a pivotal role in the intelligence of the horse is their sharp memory which is usually on display when mature horses bolt when they are approached by an unfamiliar face.

In many cases, horses display a confident temperament, whereas others display a nervous disposition, however, this can be solved by calming them down and teaching them about who is and who is not a threat to them. Aggressiveness in horses is only seen as a side effect of breeding rather than being a natural trait in the animal.

Given proper training and time, horses have shown that they can learn to become more comfortable in different scenarios and adjust their temperament after learning of the presence or absence of a threat in the form of predators.

Both old and modern literature have made claims that some breeds of horses are significantly smarter than the others, whereas, horse trainers and handlers have claimed that the intelligence measure of each horse varies on their upbringing and training.

Are horses as intelligent as dogs?

Horses and dogs are often compared with each other to find are horses smarter than dogs and vice versa, the answer to this lies through various researches and facts that have been presented over the years.

Currently, it is common knowledge that both horses and dogs are capable of achieving incredible feats.

Many dog breeds are known to detect illness and can lead the blind, or provide support to others as an emotional support dog. On the other hand, horses are known to be able to memorize difficult patterns and in some cases, sense the approaching weather.

Due to this difference in abilities, it is often difficult to compare the intelligence of these two species, making it difficult to claim if horses are smarter than dogs or vice versa.

Horses are known to own a great emotional intelligence quotient and foreknowledge that can be tough to surpass. The dog species, on the other hand, is a quick learner and can adapt to a life with humans easily, and can become lovable family members.

In actual fact, it is known that both these animals have impressive coherent abilities that paint a picture of both horses and dogs to portray their strengths and vulnerabilities making the question are horses smarter than dogs, tough to answer.

In various cases, a horse's intelligence is also compared to that of cats, and this can be differentiated by the fact that cats are predators and have a different skill set compared to horses.

Based on scientific researches, it has been claimed that horses learn faster but are slower problem solvers in comparison to dogs. Dogs were bred for their intelligence and their assistance to humans in complicated things. Hunting dogs and sheepdogs are the perfect examples.

Even with this claim, it is often seen that horses are smarter than dogs but since these are two totally different species, no exact claims can be made. It is known that horses do understand their names and can bond with humans but not the way a dog would.

Based on memory testing, it is estimated that horses are smarter of the two because as prey animals they have had to adapt over the years and find smart ways to protect themselves from predatory animals.

As of now, there is no clear answer to which creature is smarter as there is no standard for smartness in animals.

Are horses more intelligent than cows?

Horses are in some cases, compared to cows too, in intelligence and most of the time the answer is simple, horses are in fact, more intelligent than cows.

As you have probably learned by now, horses are quite smart and are able to pick up on things and learn new tricks if taught properly. Unlike cows, horses are emotional animals and have the ability to learn and grow and have an affinity towards humans.

Horses have been used as working animals that have served humans for a long period, cows are, however, mostly used for food production.

It is no surprise that horses are considered the smarter animal as they can find their way around doing their work.

A beautiful brown mare nurturing and teaching her sweet new little foal

Is a horse smarter than a human?

No, it would be quite a stretch to compare the horse intelligence with that of humans.

Horses are believed to have the intelligence of a three-year-old child. These animals can understand human emotions and learn commands and tricks.

Horses have been assumed to have a sharper memory compared to humans as they have to learn about various plants that surround them to figure out what is edible and what is not, what tastes good, and what does not.

These small differences have made this animal intelligent but not intelligent enough to show any sort of intelligence that comes close to even a fraction of the intelligence that an adult human possesses.

Did You Know...

A horse named Clever Hans holds the title of the world's smartest horse!

Clever Hans made himself known to the world as a counting horse that had the ability to make simple calculations and provided answers to mathematical questions by foot taps. Simple multiplication and addition questions were answered through foot taps.

This talent raised eyebrows and it was assumed that the owner was providing clues to the horse that enabled Hans to answer the questions. The owner was removed from the equation and the questions kept coming and Hans kept answering.

This experiment clearly portrayed the fact that horses can read the body language of humans just like the various dog breeds that have been companions to humans for a long period of time.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are horses smart? here's how intelligent horses are!

then why not take a look at why do bats sleep upside down? learn amazing facts about bats, or why do animals hibernate? curious animal hibernation facts to know?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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