Horse Trivia

/ English

Five senses

Horses also have five senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Animal's five senses have been developed depending on their living environment, physical features and so on therefore there are significant differences between creatures.

Some may say horses have sixth sense but it has not scientifically proven.

There might be some horses can see ghosts though!

However, it is true that the horses can sense the feeling of the riders so they likely to have some kind of the sixth sense.

Anyways, it is not easy to find evidences of horses' sixth sense. Let's talk about their fundamental five senses.



One of the unique features of horses' head is the position of their eyes.

The horse's eyes are widely apart, their eyes are positioned on the both sides of their heads.

Of course there are some reasons around it.

As it is a herbivorous animal, its predator is carnivore animals.

Their eyes, which are positioned on the sides of their heads can provide the best chance to spot predators.

In addition, the shape of the iris enable the horses to have a range of vision of about 350°.
(Our range of vision of about 200°)

This means only blind spot if right behind its head.

It is also distinctive that they have so called monocular vision, meaning that a different image is seen by each eye. In the other word, horse is seeing two different pictures at the same time.

Therefore it is able to detect potential danger whilst it is eating grass.

Also the horses have tapetum lucidum, which give them superior night vision.


Sounds like the horses have perfect eyes but the wide range of monocular vision has a trade-off as well.

Horses have poor depth perception as it is using only one eye on 80% of the time and they don't have developed muscle around its eyes.

In order to improve their perception, a horse has to lower its head to see distant objects and raise the head to see the close objects.

The carnivorous animals, on the other hand, have their eyes in the center of their head.
They don't have as wide range of vision as the herbivorous animals but it will give them a great sense of perception.

Thus both herbivores and carnivores animals developed their eyes, in order to survive in the wild living environment.


As horses are herbivorous animals, they needed to maximize its use of hearing skill as well as their vision to be survived within the predators.

Therefore, the horses are very sound sensitive.

Horses' ears can move 180 degrees like radar using 10 different muscles and are able to catch the sounds from all directions.

Human can only hear up to 20kHz frequency sound but horses can hear to high frequency sound, up to 30kHz.

However, Horses cannot detect as lower frequency sounds as the human can.

You may see a racehorse wearing a mask at the race, that was to calm them down by reducing the amount of noise around the horse.

Their ears show their feelings.

If you wonder how they are, you should observe the movement of their ears.

【Raised, facing forwards】

It is paying attention to the objects in front.

Horses set their ears like this especially when they are facing to something they have never seen before, unknown or never heard before.

Approach them gently and calm them down.


【Laid, facing to the sides】

It is relaxed.

However, this also appears when it is unwell - observe its eyes and facial expression carefully to see if it just relaxed or ill.


【Laid, facing backwards】

It is angry or intimidating.

It may bit or kick you, be careful if you approach to the horse.



The horse's range of smell is also more acute than that of humans.

Horses use their sense of smell to identify other horses and feedstuffs.

It may nuzzle you when you approach to it – the horse is trying to identify you by sniffing.

Smell plays an important role in terms of communication between them, for example stallions will detect estrus mare in smell.

Also the mare licks and nuzzles their foals after giving birth. This is also to identify its foals.



You may see the horses' facial expression like this.

This is often described as 'horse laughing' yet this is called 'Flehmen response', The horse is inhaling with the nostrils usually closed in order to send the scents into the vomeronasal organ, also called Jacobson's organ.

Flehmen response is often seen when it detect the scent of pheromone or urine of the opposite sex.

For instance, if you dry the mare and use the same towel on stallions, it may have Flehmen response.

Also Flehmen response can be seen when the horse detect the unfamiliar scent such as cigarette or perfume.

Sensitivity of horse olfactory are said to be about 1000 times than that of humans, you will see how the horse is superior to the sense of smell.


Many of you may think horses love carrots.

That's true but the horses also like fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges and some even like cube sugars.

Horses like sweet flavor – it is believed that horses like the sugar contained in the carrots.

Judging from their preference, horses must be a 'sweet tooth'!

They also like drinking sports drinks.


On the other hand, the horses don't like bitter taste.

For example if it detects something bitter in its feed, such as medicine, it may only pick what they want to eat and leave all unwanted feed.

Around the horse's mouth there is hair to touch , such as the beard , this helps the horse to measure the distance from the feeds and check what they are eating.

It also has sensitive lips. When it is eating, it can feel the difference in texture.

Yet, these preferences in feed depend on individual horses – some horses don't even like carrots.


Horses' tactile sensation, or touch, plays an important role in terms of the communication when you ride on a horse.

From moving a horse forward by putting a gentle pressure on their stomach to cantering it by sliding our legs, we use the horse's sense of touch as the tool of communication between humans and horses.

Particularly their stomach is extremely sensitive and acute.

As we also mentioned in the previous sense of taste section above, they can feel the different texture on the edge of their muzzle and select the appropriate feed.

This is how the horses can dexterously eat hay feed only even if there were some pebbles and wooden chips mixed into their feed.

They can feel a fly on a single hair and wave them away by using their tail or legs.

They shake the skin if the insects landed on the place where their tails and legs cannot reach.

They react really quickly even when a tiny insect landing on wherever on their large body, you can imagine they have a very sensitive tactile sensation.


As the picture shows, the horse like dust bathing and the original purpose was believed to remove parasites from their skin.

Majority of the horses like dust bathing, it might be also because this behaviour gives a nice scratchy feeling on their sensitive skin.