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What Do Horses Hear?

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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There is a tremendous amount of information available about equine performance, ability and behavior. Breeding, lineage, diseases and temperament are also known and understood.

But, little information is available on the senses of horses. Just what does a horse see? What can he hear or taste? Do certain smells affect him? Recent studies have revealed some information about sight and hearing. This article will address the issue of hearing in horses.

The sense of hearing is important to detect sounds, determine where the sounds are coming from and identifying the sound. Studies involving the hearing ability in horses are somewhat lacking.

The studies that have been done have revealed some interesting information. One study was able to determine that a horse can hear sounds up to 4,400 meters away.

When compared to people, horses hear a little differently. People are able to hear sounds ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. People are most sensitive to sounds around the 1kHz to 3 kHz range. Horses have been found to hear from 55 Hz to 33.5 kHz with most sensitivity around 1 to 16 kHz. This indicates that horses are more sensitive to higher frequencies and lower frequencies but there is not a well-defined best frequency. Horses can hear high-pitched sounds that we cannot. There are also some very low-pitched sounds that we can hear that our horses cannot.

The ability to locate the source of the sound is another important aspect of hearing in horses. Humans only have three muscles to move their ears in an attempt to find the source of a sound. Horses have 10 muscles and everyone has seen a horse move his ears to find where the sound is coming from. Through testing, it has been found that horses are better able to find the source of the sound in low frequency noises.

But the problem in evaluating this is that horses have a very wide field of vision. They may not need to make any discernible movements to find the source of the sound, thus making testing and research difficult.

For now, it seems that horses are more sensitive than people to higher frequency sounds but can locate the source of low frequency sounds better than higher frequency. As you can see, more research and study is needed in order to fully understand hearing in horses.

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