Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Measuring intelligence–whether it’s between humans or completely different species–is far from easy. There are many types of intelligence. This is part of the problem. Things get even more complicated when you consider horses and dogs. It’s not easy to answer the question “Are horses smarter than dogs?”
Both dogs and horses can do amazing things, as we all know. Horses can sense the weather and remember difficult dressage patterns. Dogs can detect illness . It is difficult to directly compare intelligence between horses and dogs.
It’s similar to how you cannot call a fish stupid if he doesn’t know how to climb trees. Understanding the intelligence of animals requires an in-depth look at their linguistic, logical and social capabilities.
What is intelligence?
Without first understanding what makes an animal intelligent, we can’t say if horses are smarter or less intelligent than dogs. Does it depend on their ability to solve complex mathematical problems without the aid of a calculator? Is it their ability to live without human intervention?
According to Zoo Portraits
Animal intelligence can be defined as the combination skills and abilities that enable animals to adapt to and live in their environment.
This definition will allow us to examine an animal’s ability adapt to its environment. What do their actions have to do with their quality of life? Are they able to make better decisions about their lives?
Animal behaviorists also consider things such as emotional understanding, social connections, memory retention, and memory retention when determining an animal’s intelligence. These capabilities can be used to evaluate our horse friends and our canine relatives.
Prey VS Predator
The primary difference between horses and dogs lies in their instincts. Although most domestic dogs don’t have to find their own food, they are still considered predators within the hierarchy of the animal kingdom. Their bodies are designed to hunt prey and they have basic instincts. Hunting for food can be difficult and requires a lot of intelligence.
Horses are prey animals. A dog’s instincts tell them how to attack and stalk, but a horse’s gut instinct tells him to flee when things get difficult. It is much easier to eat grass than to hunt down a rabbit. Behaviorists agree that predators possess intelligence that prey animals lack.
Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence
However, there are many skills required to avoid being prey. Horses have many ways to stay safe. One of these is joining forces with other horses. Horses are herd animals and can protect themselves from harm. Living in a tight-knit group gives them an emotional and social intelligence.
Emotional intelligence can be described as the ability to recognize emotions in others and manage your emotions. Communication, empathy and the ability to build relationships are all part of emotional intelligence.
Horses have a strong sense emotional intelligence, partly due to their herd dynamics. Horses form close relationships with their herd and research shows that these connections extend to people as well. Horses can sense emotions and recognize them, just like dogs. Horses are able to recognize human emotions better than dogs, and spend less time with human caregivers than dogs.
Horses can sense when someone is happy or sad. They are also able to identify familiar faces and distinguish them . Some horses have developed incredible perception-based skills due to their ability to sense and process emotions.
Clever Hans: The Story
For example, Clever Hans is a horse that has been called the “Smartest Horse in the World”. Hans, an Orlov Trotter horse, was once thought to be able to solve complex word and math problems. Hans was once asked: “If the eighth day in a month falls on a Tuesday, when is the next Friday?” Hans answered by tapping his foot eleven times, and then he gave the correct answer.
Later, it was discovered that Clever Hans’ intelligence was not what everyone believed. Hans was not actually doing math in his head. He had instead learned to see the subtlest human emotions using visual reactions. Hans always gave the correct answer when a person used involuntary body language. Hans would tap his foot without any clues if he couldn’t see the person asking the question.
Hans could not do math but he showed that horses possess an emotional intelligence unlike any other animals.
Another aspect of animal intelligence that can be measured is their ability to learn new skills and retain it. This may seem like dogs are the better at this task. We all know that dogs can learn many skills, from basic “sit” behaviors to more complicated ones. Dogs can also keep that information for their entire lives.
Although trick training is closer to horses than dogs, it’s not impossible to recognize a horse’s natural ability to learn and retain information. Horses learn complex behaviors and skills depending on their discipline. Although dressage horses are a good example, pleasure horses that are used only for trail riding can pick up and retain certain skills.
Similar training methods are used for horses and dogs. Both animals respond to rewards and link certain behaviors to the accompanying reactions. The trainer’s ability to teach a horse or dog quickly is more important than the animal’s intelligence. Both horses and dogs can learn skills by understanding, anticipating, and recalling them.
Are horses smarter than dogs?
Horses have a strong emotional intelligence and a unique intuition. However, dogs are quick to learn new skills and can adapt quickly to living with people. Both horses and dogs are capable of remarkable cognitive abilities. Evidence shows that both animals have their strengths as well as weaknesses.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!