Comparing The Learnedness And Flexibility Found In Human Language To Horse Communication

1705 words - 7 pages

Man’s relationship with horses extends back thousands of years. They have impacted wars, provided transportation, and improved farming techniques; all while being great companions for humans. Though they play this pivotal role in human history, only a few studies have been conducted to help us understand what they express through their vocalizations, and their ability to recognize individuals. Horses encompass a wide array of verbal and nonverbal cues in their communication. Vocalizations and body language can convey caller’s sex, body size, identity, motivation, and physiological states (Yeon, 2012, p.180). Horses are social creatures making the information encoded and decoded in verbal and ...view middle of the document...

Their study found that whinnies appear as a squeal-like harmonic structure and end in a manner similar to nickers. They are the longest and loudest sound horses make and can be heard from long distances. This sound indicates who the sender is and where they may be found (Yeon, 2012). During a whinny horses elevate their head while their ears and eyes are usually forwarded. The whinny can also be used as a greeting or separation call. Yeon (2012) asserts it can be used to remain in contact with affiliates or offspring and both individuals are often heard making the noise to maintain or regain contact (p. 182). It was found that mares tend to whinny more often to playbacks of whinnies of their own offspring than to other horses offspring. Horses can even identify individuals by their unique whinny when the call is matched with a visual stimulus (Proops et al., 2009). Zlotnik (2012) says horses will not feel the need to neigh if they are not lost or do not need information. She claims whinnies are similar to saying “we can hear you; here we are (p. 16).”
Whispers are used when they feel the need to have closer contact, or when they welcome their close friends (Zlotnik, 2012, p. 16). According to Ainslie and Ledbetter (1980) studies show that horses have an astounding long term memory and can remember people and other horses when years pass since they last saw them. Whispers are used in this instance and stallions use a deeper version during courtship while shaking their heads up and down. Offspring learn to imitate this sound and use it when playing near their mothers’.
The nicker has 3 contexts in which it is used by horses. This vocalization is of low amplitude and involves a shut mouth with extended nostrils, the formant structures can be characteristic of a particular individual. The first type of nicker is due to anticipatory feeding behavior, the second is emitted by stallions during sexual behavior, and the third is typically given by mares to their foals when they are appears to be some danger or she shows some sort of concern for the foal (Yeon, 2012). Another distinct call is the squeal and can usually be heard during aggressive interactions, typically given from stallions. Playback experiments show that squeals directly provide information about status, and that squeals of dominance are longer than those of subordinate horses (Rubenstein and Hack, 1992). This is important because it shows that horses understand hierarchies and can recognize social standing.
Screams are more serious than squeals, but are associated with the same scenarios as a squeal, and can be a response to other horses’ display of aggression (Yeon, 2012). Roars are produced only by stallions and directed at mares in times of arousal. The snort is the last vocalization discussed and is an alarm call. They can be seen when horses are frustrated from being tied up or forced to work for long periods of time. The last three sounds are made with the laryngeal as discussed...

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