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Aktueller Stand des Projektes "Innovatives Verhalten der Pferde"

Until the midst of June 2015 a total of 304 behaviour descriptions were recorded in the database of our homepage www.innovative-behaviour.org. Some of these reports include even several unusual behaviours of one animal.

The behaviour descriptions can be divided into four groups:

1. The first group refers to innovative behaviours. In simple terms, these are new types of behaviours, which are unusual for horses. About 73 % of the received behaviour descriptions can be determined as innovative.

Examples for this group are:

  1. A horse is bucking and kicks with its hindquarters against the trunk of an apple tree so that the fruits fall down. Then the horse walks to the apples and eats them.

  2. Another horse opens an electric fence by grabbing the handles with its mouth. First it opens the upper wire, then the middle and, finally, the lower one.

  3. A horse feeds its box neighbour with straw.

2. The second group contains behaviour patterns that cannot be categorized as innovative. They may be triggered by, for example, physical or medical causes, or may be seldom but normal for horse. This group makes up about 20 % of the descriptions.

An example for non-innovative behaviour is the defecation in certain areas of the pasture, because this can be termed “normal” behaviour for horses.

3. A small percentage of 2 % can be linked to interesting social behaviour, but cannot be determined to be innovative. Nevertheless, these behaviours can serve as interesting examples for further research on social behaviour in horses.

This group for instance encompasses a horse that scratches its belly at the horns of a lying cow.

4. The fourth group is named ‘unclear’ and includes approximately 3 % of the behaviour descriptions. Those are behaviours that cannot be clearly related to one of the other groups.

The most common innovative behaviour patterns are feeding innovations and innovations for gaining freedom. However, quite a few behaviour descriptions suggest that horses copy the behaviour from human caretakers (social learning across species boundaries). 

A good example for possible social learning is a foal that grooms its mother with a curry comb.


In the last few months a great number of behaviour descriptions reached us. We want to thank everybody who became active and filled in the questionnaire on our homepage! Because in many of the descriptions, social learning cannot be ruled out, it is necessary to collect more examples for innovative behaviour.
We are delighted about every single record on our homepage!




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Page | by Dr. Radut