How Smart Are Horses Compared To Other Animals?

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How Smart Are Horses Compared To Other AnimalsWhile we love our horses, it is not uncommon for us to sometimes wonder how smart they really are, especially when compared to other animals. So, how smart are our horses? Are horses smarter than dogs? We’ll find out in this article. Here, we’ll discuss other interesting cognition-related details about our equine friends. Know other interesting horse facts? Share in the comment section below.

How Smart Are Horses?

Many of the studies on horses have repeatedly shown their impressive cognitive skills. These studies continue to reveal that horses are way more intelligent than we think.

Horses, like many animals, over time, have learned to communicate with each other and other animals for information that helps them avoid predators.  And horses in the wild especially need this crucial survival skill. With domestication starting thousands of years ago, their communication/social cognitive skills have sharpened more than ever hence their easy collaboration with their humans.

So, how smart are horses compared to animals such as dogs and dolphins? Are horses smarter? Do our horses even recognize us?

If you own horses, this might be something you’ve thought about. And it is often a common question by horse owners who also own dogs. So, before we answer that question, we first have to remind readers that dogs and horses have evolved differently. Canines are naturally predators/hunters, while horses are prey animals. Expectedly, they react differently to situations. In most scary situations, the equines are more likely to be led first by their flight response, unlike the canines. And this does not in any way make them less intelligent ones.

How Big Is A Horse’s Brain?

The adult human brain is larger than the equine’. The brain of the horse weighs about one and a half pounds to two pounds, around the exact size of a human child’s brain.  Even though smaller, it is very much similar to ours with only very few differences.

Like our brain, the horse’s brain is divided into two lobes; the right brain and the left brain. Like in humans, the right brain controls the left side of the body while the left controls the right side.

So, are horses smarter than dogs?

Some horse owners/equine enthusiasts believe horses to be smarter than dogs. And as we said earlier, it is hard to make a fair comparison between dogs and horses as they are different species; one is a predator animal and the other, a prey animal.

Some studies, however, suggest that horses are smarter than many animals, including dogs, some, however, suggest that dogs are smarter. While it seems to make sense to believe that predatory animals such as dogs and cats have to be more intelligent due to the need to learn to hunt for prey, there are no studies to back up this belief.

Are Horses Smarter Than Camels?

Again, comparing the intelligence level between these two animals is challenging. They are of different species. Camels are smart and have good memories. On the other hand, the equines are much more submissive, and it is not unusual for them to forgive a mean owner almost immediately after getting mistreated. Camels are different as they are known to find ways to get back at their owner when poorly treated.

Which Animal Is The Smartest?

Chimpanzees are smart, and many believe that they are some of the smartest animals. Like horses, they live in groups, and this may explain their above-average intelligence/social awareness.

Are Some Horses Smarter Than Others?

Some studies on equine breeds suggest that certain breeds might be more intelligent than others. Some horse experts also believe that equine intelligence depends on the particular breed, hence the need to measure each breed’s intelligence separately. It is also not unusual for equestrians favoring a specific breed to claim/believe their breed more intelligent than the others.

However, in some studies, Arabian and Thoroughbreds were found to rank the highest in intelligence. In one of such researches, some horses were even shown to be able to identify numbers, letters, colors, and shapes. Some even understood not-so-simple concepts such as proportion, absentness, and object permanence, etc.

Horse Iq

In recent rankings, horses have retained the seventh position of the category of Animal Intelligence Hierarchy. Their smartness, intelligence, and agility are said to be different from many other animals.

Why Do Horses Let Us Ride Them?

If they are so bright, why would horses even let humans ride them in the first place? Have they always been gentle and freely walk to us when we approach them? Why do they remain with humans considering that they could escape? So many questions!

First, horses do not allow us to ride them because they are dumb. As we’ve already established, horses are far from being unintelligent. They let us ride them because of the relationship, trust, time, training, and hard work from hundreds of years of domestication. However, this is not so in the wild. In the wild, horses instinctually flee when approached by humans. And by running away at the first suspicion of danger, they have managed to survive for thousands of years. Before domestication, they were hunted for their meat just like any other large animal. The training only began after they were captured.

Can Horses Read Human Body Language?

They can. In studies, horses were found to be able to read human body language and tell if a dominant or submissive posture was being displayed. They were found to be able to do so even with unfamiliar people. In one of the studies, domestic horses were found to move towards people displaying submissive body posture such as slouching, arms and legs close to the body, and relaxed knees. The study not only proved that horses could communicate with body language but also that they will act on what they perceive from the human.

Do Horses See In The Dark?

According to studies, in low light, horses can see better than humans. This is due to the presence of the membrane tapetum lucidum at the back of their eyes, known to reflect light better than the human eye.

Are Horses Color-Blind?

Many wrongly believe that horses are completely color blind, but nothing could be further from the truth. While horses see colors differently from humans with normal color vision, their color perception is similar to that of the color-blind human that perceives colors differently but definitely not blind to colors.

Horses with “normal” vision see about two or three visible wavelengths in the color spectrum; blues and greens. There are no reds, so a red apple or an orange carrot may appear as shades of green or brown to our equine friends.

Are Horses Dangerous?

Even though agile, horses are very unlikely to deliberately cause harm to a person. They, however, tend to react quickly and, as a result of their usually large size, may hurt people in the process. Some of the ways horses can hurt people include stepping on their toes and falling off during a ride (horseback riding can be dangerous. Hence, riders are encouraged to apply safety precautions such as wearing safety boots and helmets).

Are Horse Domestic Animals?

Yes, horses are domestic animals. They fall into the categories of species bred and raised by humans. And their domestication began around 6000 years ago. Even the so-called wild horses today were previously domesticated breeds that escaped and naturalized in the wild.

Can A Horse Be A Pet?

Is a horse a pet? As horses are intelligent and relatively calm animals, many equestrians consider their horses as pets, and as such, they are kept for both companionship and enjoyment. On the other hand, some horse experts advise against treating a horse too much like a pet. These experts claim that horses treated this way can develop behavioral problems.

Generally, though, most modern horses have been bred for livestock purposes. In some parts of the world, they are raised and consumed as meat, even though in these parts, they are also used as pack and draw animals needed for pulling horse-drawn vehicles in farming and transportation.

Are Horses Carnivores, Herbivores Or Omnivores?

Horses are pure herbivores. They only eat plant material, and like other herbivores, they have flat grinding teeth with long digestive systems. This system breaks down plant cellulose fiber. Other animals in this category include cows, antelopes, deer, elephants, and bison and zebras.


Any horse enthusiast knows that horses are some of the most lovable animals; they are mostly gentle, easy to care for, and simply good-looking. However, not a few sometimes wonder how smart they really are compared to other animals. In this article, we tried to answer some of the questions you may have about horse intelligence, especially when compared to other animals. And yes, horses are intelligent, and this is clearly one of reasons they have survived so long domesticated and still continue to survive in the wild.

Know other interesting facts about horses and their behaviors? Share with us in the comment section below. Also, share other questions you may have about this topic, and we’ll try to answer them.