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

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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.

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Correspondence to Federica Amici.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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

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Haemmerli, S., Thill, C., Amici, F. et al. Domestic horses (Equus ferus caballus) fail to intuitively reason about object properties like solidity and weight. Anim Cogn 21, 441–446 (2018).

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