Animal Cognition

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 441–446 | Cite as

Domestic horses (Equus ferus caballus) fail to intuitively reason about object properties like solidity and weight

  • Sarah Haemmerli
  • Corinne Thill
  • Federica AmiciEmail author
  • Trix Cacchione
Short Communication


From early infancy, humans reason about the external world in terms of identifiable, solid, cohesive objects persisting in space and time. This is one of the most fundamental human skills, which may be part of our innate conception of object properties. Although object permanence has been extensively studied across a variety of taxa, little is known about how non-human animals reason about other object properties. In this study, we therefore tested how domestic horses (Equus ferus caballus) intuitively reason about object properties like solidity and height, to locate hidden food. Horses were allowed to look for a food reward behind two opaque screens, only one of which had either the proper height or inclination to hide food rewards. Our results suggest that horses could not intuitively reason about physical object properties, but rather learned to select the screen with the proper height or inclination from the second set of 5 trials.


Object properties Animal cognition Object permanence Solidity Core knowledge 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

10071_2018_1177_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 32 kb)
10071_2018_1177_MOESM2_ESM.wmv (12.4 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (WMV 12694 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Junior Research Group “Primate Kin Selection”, Department of PrimatologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Biology, Faculty of Life ScienceUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.Pädagogische HochschuleUniversity of Applied Sciences Northwestern SwitzerlandWindischSwitzerland

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