Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 623–630 | Cite as

Cross-modal recognition of human individuals in domestic horses (Equus caballus)

Original Paper


This study has shown that domestic horses are capable of cross-modal recognition of familiar humans. It was demonstrated that horses are able to discriminate between the voices of a familiar and an unfamiliar human without seeing or smelling them at the same moment. Conversely, they were able to discriminate the same persons when only exposed to their visual and olfactory cues, without being stimulated by their voices. A cross-modal expectancy violation setup was employed; subjects were exposed both to trials with incongruent auditory and visual/olfactory identity cues and trials with congruent cues. It was found that subjects responded more quickly, longer and more often in incongruent trials, exhibiting heightened interest in unmatched cues of identity. This suggests that the equine brain is able to integrate multisensory identity cues from a familiar human into a person representation that allows the brain, when deprived of one or two senses, to maintain recognition of this person.


Cross-modal Recognition of humans Horse Equus caballus Human–horse interaction Animal cognition Visual recognition Auditory recognition Voice discrimination Interspecific 



We are grateful to Robert S. Jones. As manager and owner of “Seventh Heaven Farm,” Harrisonburg, Virginia, he made the experiment possible in 2010–2011.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary StudiesThe University of EdinburghMidlothianUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyJames Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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