Do Horses Have Emotions?

I am often asked this question, and I have to say that my answer in the past has always been “no.” How could they?

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This was wow

Horsesrule more than 3 years ago


Emotions do not come from the cerebral cortex - they are largely generated in the limbic system and mediated by the reptilian brain, and are a subcortical process. While humans have a more developed neo-cortex than horses, both horses and humans have the sub-cortical structures that generate emotion. Horses and humans are both herd mammals that rely on attachment bonds for survival (oxytocin). While animals might not experience complex emotions like humans, they nonetheless share the same brain structures (like an amygdala) that are involved in emotional experiencing. As per the polyvagal theory by neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges, horses will at the very least experience safety (and the feelings of wellbeing that come from being in a relaxed state), pain, threat, fight/flight (self-protective responses associated with anger/rage and anxiety/panic), and nurturing. Similarly, affective neuroscientist Dr. Jaak Panksepp determined that mammals have at least 7 emotional pathways in the brain: seeking, rage, fear, lust, care, panic/grief and play. More complex emotions might not be experienced in the same way as humans (it is difficult to determine whether other mammals have the same self-referential ability as humans -- which IS moderated by the pre-frontal cortex), but they do experience emotions.

Sarah more than 4 years ago

horse brain

my grandfather beat his horse on a daily basis . The last day of my grandfathers life the horse kicked him to death. could it be that my grandfathers treatment of him enraged the horse to do this?

earla more than 5 years ago

Horse beating

Good for the horse, served the guy right. Why didn't somebody stop him beating the horse?

Mary Lee Lackey more than 4 years ago

Grandfather's Horse

I doubt the horse maliciously planned to 'get back' at the man.
The horse probably had learnt to expect bad treatment from this particular person, had learnt which cues to look for when a beating was eminent and, in this case, I suspect the horse finally had enough and reacted out of anger or, more likely, out of a sense of self-preservation.

Mira Lea more than 3 years ago

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