Are goats smarter than cats and dogs

Animal intelligence : Horses are much smarter than you think

The black Arabian stallion "Hans" was clever: he could do arithmetic, name the day of the week and read the time. The retired schoolteacher Wilhelm von Osten demonstrated the black horse in a backyard in Berlin, who tapped the ground with his hoof until the correct answer was obtained. How many women with straw hats did he see in the audience? What is the root of 16? Hans knew about it. In the summer of 1904, he not only astonished Berlin, Germany and Europe, he even made it onto the front page of the “New York Times”.

But Oskar Pfungst from the Psychological Institute at Berlin University was skeptical - and had an inspiration. Hans, he supposed, could read in the facial expressions of his questioner. If you missed Hans's blinkers, the horse failed miserably. Otherwise, however, he perceived subtle head movements: if a person lowered his gaze slightly to the hooves after a question, he began to step on. She raised her head a little, when the right number was reached, he stopped. That is why Hans did not go down in the history of animal psychology for his intelligence, but for the “experimenter effect”.

The embarrassment carved itself deep into the minds of the scientists. For many decades after that, animals would only react, not think. This has slowly changed since the middle of the last century. Behavioral researchers began to research the intelligence, language skills, or empathy of chimpanzees, parrots, ravens, dogs, and rats. "Horses, on the other hand, were under general suspicion for much longer," said Konstanze Krüger, expert on horse keeping at the Nürtingen-Geislingen University of Economics and Environment, at the "International Meeting on Equine Science" at the University of Regensburg. "That has only changed in the last few years."

The brain volume increases when animals live in social groups

While connoisseurs know that horses are highly sensitive and intelligent, the rest of the world sees only googly-eyed, muscle-bound creatures with terrifying hooves. But animal psychologists, behavioral researchers, zoologists and other equine experts now regularly demonstrate in experiments that animals are smarter than one generally thinks. Hans may not have been a horse Einstein, but he had a sensitive perception that allowed him to interpret the most subtle reactions. In addition, horses form abstract concepts, know their name and are sometimes even able to use tools.

Evolution created the prerequisite for such intelligence. The behavioral scientist Susanne Shultz from the University of Oxford recently analyzed the brain development of mammals over the past 60 million years together with the psychologist Robin Dunbar. In doing so, she found that the brains of those animals that live in stable social groups grew rapidly. The volume of the brains of monkeys increased the most, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. “Social mammals have to coordinate, cooperate, and develop norms as part of a group,” says Shultz. "You need more mental capacity."

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