Ten fun facts about horses - BC SPCA
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Ten fun facts about horses

December 3, 2020

Horses have been a part of society for many years, and for many different reasons. Horses are working animals, companions and athletes in equestrian sport, to name a few. Although horses are such well-known animals, the following facts may surprise you about these magnificent creatures.

Horse in grass field

1. Horses can’t breathe through their mouth

Horses are “obligate nose breathers” meaning that they can only breathe through their nose, not through their mouth as humans can.

2. Horses can sleep standing up

Horses have what’s called a “stay-apparatus” which is a system of tendons and ligaments that allows the horse to lock their legs in position so they can relax without falling over. When not sleeping, horses also use this apparatus to rest while standing for long periods of time so they don’t fatigue. This allows them to conserve energy while standing so they are ready to take flight if needed. But it is a myth that horses never lay down – they do spend a short amount of time each day laying down for deeper sleep.

3. Horses have lightning fast reflexes

Should a situation arise when they need to fight, they can go from standing still to delivering a powerful kick in just 0.3 seconds, whereas human reaction time is 1.6 seconds.

4. Horses have 10 different muscles in their ears

This allows them to rotate nearly 180 degrees and move independently of one another. Humans only have three muscles in their ears.

5. Horses have a nearly 360 degree field of vision

This is due to the positioning of their eyes on the sides of their head. However, they have two blind spots – one directly behind them, and the other just in-front and below their nose. This means that they cannot see the grass they are grazing on, or the carrot you are sticking out to them! Instead they use their mobile and sensitive lips, whiskers and sense of smell to know what is in-front of them and decide if they want to eat it.

Horses grazing in a field

6. Horses do not have teeth in the middle of their mouth

You can also estimate how old a horse is by looking at their teeth.

7. Horses are highly intelligent animals

They can be taught many different tasks through positive reinforcement and clicker training, just as dogs can. One study showed that horses have the ability to communicate their needs to their guardians; these horses learned to communicate whether they wanted a blanket on or off through touching symbols on a board.

8. The earliest ancestor of the horse is estimated to have lived 55 million years ago

This ancestor was only the size of a Labrador retriever. Horses were domesticated around 6000 years ago, estimated from evidence found at archaeological sites. They were first domesticated as a food source.

9. Horses have a fixed pelvis, so they cannot do the splits

They do have some lateral movement though, allowing them to scratch their ears with their hind feet.

10. Horses are very social animals

Since horses are prey species, they find safety in a herd and form strong social relationships with each other. They use their senses to recognize familiar horses and spend time with those they have formed friendships with. In the wild, one horse will stand guard to keep watch while the other horses in the herd take time to eat, rest and sleep.

Horse standing alert in field with other horses in background

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