HORSES can read and remember emotional expressions, a study has shown.
The findings from the universities of Portsmouth and Sussex mean horses could identify people who might pose a potential threat.
The research team conducted controlled experiments in which domestic horses were presented with a photograph of an angry or happy human face.
Several hours later saw the actual person who had exhibited the expression, now in an emotionally neutral state.
This short-term exposure to the photograph was enough to generate clear differences in subsequent responses upon meeting that individual in the flesh later the same day.
Importantly, in the current experiment the people did not know which photographs the horses had previously seen, to avoid any risk of behaving differently themselves.
Co-lead author Dr Leanne Proops, of the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘We know that horses are socially intelligent animals, but this is the first time any mammal has been shown to have this particular ability.
‘What’s very striking is that this happened after just briefly viewing a photograph of the person with a particular emotional expression.’