How do horses differ from us?
Although horses have near-panoramic vision, they nevertheless have several blind spots. Horses cannot see the first two meters in front of them nor behind themselves in-line with their body. Horses are highly sensitive to contrast and need several minutes to adapt to rapid changes in light intensity, but can then see perfectly in dark conditions and at night. Their color vision is also different to ours.
In addition to flaring their nostrils, horses, like many other animals, have a special organ known as the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ. This enables them to analyze the molecules emitted by their peers, pheromones: molecules emitted by their peers that can for example be found in the urine of mares on heat.
Although great attention is paid to horses’ nutrition, paradoxically, very little is known about their sense of taste. One thing is for sure: like humans, horses have four types of taste buds concentrated on the tongue, enabling them to distinguish sweet, salty, sour and acid.
A horse’s auditory range is much higher than ours because they also hear ultrasounds, i.e. the very high sounds which humans cannot hear. Inversely, humans can hear deep or low-frequency sounds which are inaudible to horses.
Luckily, our voices are within the range of sound which horses can hear the best.
Two specific anatomical features make horses highly touch sensitive animals: their whiskers and their skin muscles, which tremble through a reflex when an insect lands on their skin. They also love to scratch with their teeth or hooves when they feel itchy!
Texts by Déborah Bardou and Hélène Roche, ethologists – Photos Hélène Roche