This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Nuts and Bolts: horse sense.

Some scientists in Norway have just taught some horses to read.

No, really, it's properly true - and Cecilie M Meidel, Turid Buvik, Grete H M Jørgensen and Knut E Bøe of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute have got a good result with every single animal in their experiment, too. Twenty three horses, twenty three newly-literate animals - and this after just ten to fifteen minutes of training every day for a couple of weeks.

Good grief, not all teachers of human animals can claim as much.

The result is that now the horses can tell their humans whether they want to wear a blanket or not by touching a symbol on a board (the horses were placed in variously cold and warm places to check that the horses understood what they were asking).

There were three symbols for the horses to choose from: blanket on (horizontal line) blanket off (vertical line) and no change (blank symbol...which I presume means no symbol at all).

The results of the study were published in the Applied Animal Behaviour Science journal, and it says on their website that horses of the warm-blooded type (the sort bred for jumping and sport) were quicker learners than the cold-blooded type (heavy draft animals).

Now, it's nice the horses can be made properly comfortable, but the next and most important question must be: what do we really want to ask a horse?

File:Hafling Horses.jpg
photo by Julian Berry

Word To Use Today: horse. This word was hors in Old English.

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