Start Research The effects of age, rank and neophobia on social learning in horses (Krüger, 2014)
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The effects of age, rank and neophobia on social learning in horses

Krüger, K., Farmer, K., Heinze, J. Animal Cognition, 2013.

 

Brief summary and comments

30 domestic horses were divided into groups of 6, and  one from each group, was chosen as a demonstrator, while the others were observers.  

The demonstrators were trained to open a feeding apparatus, which required them to pull a rope to open a tray with feed in it. 

The observers from each group were then allowed to watch their group demonstrator operating the apparatus and receiving the food. We found that young, low-ranking and more exploratory observer horses learned by observing older members of their own group, and the older the observer horse, the more slowly it appeared to learn.

 

  

 

This may be because older animals may avoid the risks of picking up feeding behaviour from younger group members, on the basis that younger horses are less experienced and might eat something dangerous.

 It had previously been suggested that horses do not learn from each other in this way. Now it is seems that they do, but that whether they emulate the behaviour of another horse may depend on how they view the other horse. Another important factor is that when testing "learning", it is important to take the horse's view into account. Those that didn't open the apparatus didn't necessarily fail to learn, they may simply have chosen not to act on it.

 

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