Mammal communication researchers have shown that, like humans, horses use muscles underlying various facial features,including their nostrils, lips and eyes to alter their facial expressions in a variety of social situations.
The study builds on previous research showing that cues from the face are important for horses to communicate, by developing an objective coding system to identify different individual facial expressions on the basis of underlying muscle movement.
The study’s co-lead author, doctoral researcher Jennifer Wathan, said: “Horses are predominantly visual animals, with eyesight that’s better than domestic cats and dogs, yet their use of facial expressions has been largely overlooked. What surprised us was the rich repertoire of complex facial movements in horses, and how many of them are similar To humans”
Despite the differences in face structure between horses and humans, it was identified some similar expressions in relation to movements of the lips and eyes.
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