The Mind of the Horse

The Mind of the Horse

Michel-Antoine Leblanc
Translated by Giselle Weiss
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wpq9w
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  • Book Info
    The Mind of the Horse
    Book Description:

    Horses were first domesticated about 6,000 years ago on the vast Eurasian steppe, yet only in the last two decades have scientists begun to explore the mental capacities of these animals. InThe Mind of the Horse,Michel-Antoine Leblanc presents an encyclopedic synthesis of scientific knowledge about equine behavior and cognition, providing experts and enthusiasts alike with an up-to-date understanding of how horses perceive, think about, and adapt to their physical and social worlds. Much of what we think we know about "the intelligence of the horse" derives from fragmentary reports and anecdotal evidence. Putting this accumulated wisdom to the test, Leblanc introduces readers to rigorous experimental investigations into how horses make sense of their world under varying conditions. He describes the anatomical and neurophysiological characteristics of the horse's brain, and compares these features with those of other species, to gain an evolutionary perspective. A horseman himself, Leblanc also considers the opinions of renowned riding masters, as well as controversies surrounding the horse's extraordinary mental powers that have stirred in equestrian and scientific circles.The Mind of the Horsebrings together in one volume the current state of equine research and will likely stimulate surprising new discoveries.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72637-6
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD TO THE FRENCH EDITION
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Martine Hausberger

    Michel-Antoine Leblanc has gotten us used to books that are both comprehensive and precise, relying closely on the scientific literature, which is otherwise largely inaccessible to the public. This book is no exception. It constitutes an impressive and singular review of the major research carried out in the area of equine cognition. Like any review, it reflects a state of affairs at a given moment, which the author himself points out in highlighting persisting gaps and the need for continuing research.

    This perspective is important, especially at a time when (too) much information, at times contradictory, is being generated on...

  4. FOREWORD TO THE ENGLISH EDITION
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Evelyn B. Hanggi

    The Mind of the Horse: An Introduction to Equine Cognitionis a translated and updated adaptation of Michel-Antoine Leblanc’s successful book,L’esprit du cheval. This English version, similar to the original French book, is an in-depth review of the scientific literature available to date on specific aspects of equine cognition and perception. While both scientific and popular books on the behavior and/or training of horses abound, accurate portrayal of the perceptual capacities of horses—and how those abilities relate to cognition and behavior—in a compiled book format has been a relatively rare occurrence. WithThe Mind of the Horse,...

  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  6. 1 WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE HORSE
    (pp. 1-21)

    Millennia have passed since people looked on horses solely as a source of meat. Indeed, they were probably domesticated around 6000 years ago (Anthony 1996; Olsen 1996; Jansen et al. 2002; Levine 2005; Outram et al. 2009) in the western part of the grassy Eurasian steppe (Warmuth 2012) that extended 7,000 kilometers from the Carpathians to Mongolia. It was probably the only region in the world where the horse survived in appreciable numbers at the end of the Ice Age.

    The earliest writings and depictions attest to the use of the horse going back around 4,000 years and refer initially...

  7. 2 EQUINE INTELLIGENCE
    (pp. 22-39)

    The first question that arises in considering the mental capacities of horses is, “Are they intelligent?” This question has provoked a variety of responses, some contradictory. By way of evidence, let us look to the literature, sampling authors of different backgrounds from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including renowned horsemen.

    Ernest Menault (1869) provides a good starting point. He is an intellectual descendant, so to speak, of French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon (Buffon, 1781).¹ Menault wrote a book titledThe Intelligence of Animalsthat was initially published in 1868 in theBibliothèque des Merveilles(Library of Wonders) to...

  8. 3 ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE, COGNITION, AND REPRESENTATION
    (pp. 40-70)

    Although it ranks high in the popular and professional discourse, and although we attach a significant amount of importance to it (even a particular kind of importance), the concept of intelligence is quite hard to define. And yet define it we must. I am mindful of the quip attributed to Alfred Binet, author (with Theodore Simon) of the first practical intelligence test at the beginning of the last century: “Intelligence is what my test measures.”

    A quick look atThe Merriam-Webster Dictionaryturns up the following: “The ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations...

  9. 4 THE EQUINE BRAIN
    (pp. 71-110)

    The brain is simultaneously both an integral part of the nervous system and an orchestra conductor. As Robert Barone and Ruggero Bortolami (2004) write: “The nervous system governs an organism’s relationships with its environment as well as the functional coordination of the rest of the apparatus. To this end, it perceives every change in the external or internal milieu and responds with appropriate action. In higher mammals, this function of adaptation reaches its most perfect form with the development of the psyche; one might say that intellectual functions are its highest expression” (1). For this reason, it is well worth...

  10. 5 THE NATURE OF EQUINE PERCEPTION
    (pp. 111-124)

    To perceive the world, we use our sense organs. However, we know that in the animal world, all species do not share the same senses. Thus, some animals have senses that we do not and that enable them, for example, to detect electrical signals—like some fish and even insects (Clarke et al. 2013)—to navigate and forage by echolocation (like bats,¹ dolphins, and whales), and to orient themselves with the aid of magnetic fields (like migratory birds, especially garden warblers, which appear to do it using magnetic particles located on either side of their beak) (Heyers et al. 2007)....

  11. 6 THE ANATOMICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL BASIS OF EQUINE VISUAL PERCEPTION
    (pp. 125-159)

    Visual perception is enormously complex. Consequently, I will begin this chapter by reviewing the main anatomical and physiological aspects relevant to visual perception in the horse, with special emphasis on how the sensory organ—the eye—captures, filters, and codes visual information. I will also make several observations about how this information travels to the brain and is processed there, as well as about some basic elements of color vision. I will then examine how the equine brain interprets visual information, in other words, how the horse perceives its visual world. To this end, I will refer to behavioral work...

  12. 7 THE BEHAVIORAL EXPLORATION OF EQUINE VISUAL PERCEPTION: PERCEPTION OF SHAPES AND MOVEMENT
    (pp. 160-216)

    After reviewing the anatomic and physiological characteristics of the visual system of horses most relevant for the purposes of this book, I will now turn to experimental studies whose goal is to “ask” horses themselves what they see.

    To do that, I will first describe the principles behind the experiments in question, and then take a more in-depth look at visual acuity, the visual field, nocturnal vision, the visual apparatus (as an integrated system), three-dimensional perception, image recognition, and perception of movement. I will end by considering a question related to the uniqueness of animal vision compared with human vision....

  13. 8 THE BEHAVIORAL EXPLORATION OF EQUINE VISUAL PERCEPTION: THE QUEST FOR COLOR PERCEPTION
    (pp. 217-271)

    From the earliest experiments on color vision in horses, carried out by Bernhard Grzimek (1952), much ink has been spilled on the subject, owing especially to the problems caused by having to control many critical parameters (hue, purity, brightness, and conditions for stimulus lighting), the limited number of horses tested, and the very few studies devoted to the subject. Not only must research contend with complex methodological programs, but these studies are by definition long term, and as I have already emphasized, the horse is a heavy, expensive, hard-to-handle animal that is less amenable to experimentation than many other species....

  14. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  15. 9 HEARING IN HORSES
    (pp. 272-329)

    Due as much to the diffuse nature of sound wave propagation, which sends them around obstacles, as to the capacity of the auditory apparatus to detect sounds in all directions (both night and day), the auditory perceptual apparatus complements that of visual perception: It is a warning system that allows horses to detect, locate, and identify potential predators. Moreover, as is the case with many species, the horse is not only a “receiver” but also an “emitter” of sounds. In other words, auditory perception also plays a significant role in communication between individuals, and thus in their social life. I...

  16. 10 EQUINE CHEMICAL PERCEPTION: ODORS, PHEROMONES, TASTES, AND FLAVORS
    (pp. 330-368)

    Chemoreception, which enables living organisms to respond to chemical stimuli, is universal in the animal world: “From the amoeba to man, all living creatures are endowed with chemical sensitivity” (Lefèvre-Balleydier, MacLeod, and Holey 2006, 91).

    Actually, in mammals, chemoreception corresponds to different sensory modalities that make it possible to detect odors and pheromones¹ (primary system and accessory olfactory or vomeronasal system), tastes (gustatory system), and irritating or nociceptive substances (trigeminal system).

    Chemoreception has the particular characteristic that, in comparison with vision and hearing, it relies on information that depends on the physicochemical configuration of volatile, low-molecular-weight chemical components and not...

  17. 11 TACTILE PERCEPTION IN THE HORSE
    (pp. 369-387)

    The field of tactile perception in animals, especially the horse, has produced very few psychophysical investigations (Saslow 2002). In the words of Paul McGreevy, this state of affairs is surprising “given the importance of tactile stimulation for communication both within human-horse dyads and between horses” (51).

    Nonetheless, the histological structure of the skin has been described in detail not only in humans (Prost-Squarcioni 2006) but also in horses (Scott and Miller 2003; Wakuri et al. 1995; Wong, Buechner-Maxwell, and Manning 2005). All the same, substantial uncertainty exists regarding the molecular mechanisms underpinning different tactile modalities.

    Thick and not very elastic,...

  18. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 388-392)

    Research on the cognitive ethology of the horse, carried out over the two last decades, and in particular very recently, has significantly advanced our understanding of the way in which the mind of the horse works. However, missing pieces of the current picture also highlight gaps still to be filled and, accordingly, indicate the road ahead.

    To elaborate these points, and shuffling somewhat the order of the chapters, permit me here to make a few remarks on what is known about equine perceptual modalities as well as on the cognitive capacities that their study has revealed. Next, I will extend...

  19. REFERENCES
    (pp. 393-424)
  20. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 425-426)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 427-441)