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Understanding Horse Language: The Ethogram

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Learning to understand the language of horses


An ethogram is a complete list of both social and non-social behaviours exhibited by a given species. An ethogram is a list of behaviours which can be likened to the vocabulary used in a foreign language. 

All around the globe, all horses, of every breed, use these signals. What changes is the appearance of the horses, and while this in turn can influence their ability to communicate, the signals they use are typical of the entire species.

An ethogram is a useful tool to:
1. Observe horses
2. Facilitate communication with horses
3. Study and evaluate horses behaviour

Ethograms and Scientific Research

Ethograms are the starting point for all animal studies, along with  questions such as  whether or not different breeds have different ethological profiles (Leyhausen, 1982), how much intra-specific variation exists and in what ways domestication has influenced and changed the behavioural repertoire used by animals in the wild.

Using the Ethogram in evaluating Horses

An ethogram provides a useful tool for the evaluation of horses, in that it makes it possible to produce less subjective evaluations, and to compare evaluations based on observable and recordable behaviours.

The Equid Ethogram: A Practical Field Guide to Horse Behavior Sue McDonnell PhD and The Equid Video Ethogram DVD: interactive DVD companion to the book.

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