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Are Dogs Smarter Than Horses?

Measuring intelligence isn’t an easy task. Dogs are one of the smartest animals in the world, but how do they fare against horses?

Dogs and horses are both smart in their own ways, but because dogs are predators, they have certain skills that horses don’t. They’re both socially and emotionally intelligent and have the ability to retain knowledge for a long period of time.

In this article, we’re going to look at how intelligence in animals is measured. Emotional intelligence, social skills, and memory retention are three factors that people usually study to determine intelligence in animals. Keep in mind that just because dogs do some things better than horses, it doesn’t mean they’re more intelligent. Horses have their own way of doing things and their own reasons for doing them. With the help of this article, I hope you’ll be able to understand just how intelligent both animals are.

What Makes an Animal Intelligent?

You’re not going to call a fish unintelligent because it can’t climb a tree. When we talk about intelligence in animals, we usually refer to their ability to adapt to their surroundings. What skills do they use to improve their lives? What do they do to get along with other members of their species?

Things like emotional intelligence, social skills and memory retention determine how intelligent an animal is. Dogs are considered smart for a number of reasons. They can remember things really well, and they’re great at reading and reacting to our body language. They’re emotionally intelligent and love to socialize with people and other animals.

Horses are also able to sense our emotions by reading our body language. Most horse owners know just how much horses love to cuddle when their owners are feeling sad. They’re also capable of learning commands through conditioning and they tend to remember the things you teach them for months.

Many people assume horses aren’t smart, but this misconception exists because horses have different motivations than humans for doing the things they do, and because of this, we end up thinking they’re “stupid”. Dogs, on the other hand, are social creatures just like us and they behave in a similar way as we do when they’re taught through positive or negative reinforcement.

One of the most significant differences between dogs and horses is that dogs are predators while horses are prey animals. Most dogs have basic hunting instincts which means they have the sort of intelligence that horses don’t. When dogs feel threatened, they’re going to figure out how to stalk and attack – actions that take a certain amount of intelligence to perform. When horses feel threatened, they’re going to run away without doing a lot of thinking.

Below are some factors that determine intelligence in animals:

  • Emotional understanding
  • Social skills
  • Memory retention

Let’s look at them in detail.

Emotional Understanding

While horses don’t respond to positive or negative reinforcement like dogs do, they’re both emotionally intelligent creatures. As mentioned above, horses can recognize emotions in humans and they’re also able to identify familiar faces and voices, which explains how they’re able to remember people.

Clever Hans was a popular horse in the early 20th century who could supposedly solve complex mathematical problems. It was later discovered that the horse wasn’t actually solving mathematical problems in his head, but was able to do so by reading the emotions of the people who were watching him. He wasn’t able to get the right answer when he was blindfolded because he couldn’t read people’s faces.

When it comes to emotional intelligence, the average dog is smarter than the average horse. They’ll sometimes manipulate the behavior of others around them to get what they want. Think about how they sometimes act cute in front of you to get treats! Research shows that dogs are as smart as a 2-year-old human. Just like horses, dogs are also able to read our emotions and they love to cuddle with us when they notice we’re feeling down in the dumps.

Social Skills

Since horses are prey animals and they don’t like to attack when they’re met with a threat, they keep themselves safe by forming strong emotional bonds with other horses. They live in herds. A horse will never choose to be alone because they feel safest and happiest when they’re with other horses. Their desire to form an emotional connection extends to humans, as well.

Dogs are social creatures in much the same way we are. They’ve spent a lot of time with us (over 10,000 years) and years of selective breeding have resulted in dogs that behave the way we want them to.

Dogs love to socialize, but as someone who has two furry babies who were always at each other’s throats when they first met, I can tell you that a lot of the time, they don’t get along with each other. Anyone who’s owned more than one dog knows how much of a Herculean task it is to get two dogs to be friends with each other.

Memory Retention

For many people, this will be a no-brainer. Dogs respond better to positive reinforcement and you can teach them so many complex commands and behaviors. They mostly remember these behaviors for their entire lives.

Horses are also capable of learning new behaviors and they’re good at remembering them, too. How quickly dogs and horses are able to learn new skills mostly depends on the person training them. If the trainer is inexperienced, then even the smartest dog won’t be able to learn anything from them.

Horses have been selectively bred for things like size, looks, and strength. Dogs have also been selectively bred for their looks, but breeders also did it to achieve desirable behaviors and higher intelligence because many of them were herding dogs that had to be vigilant all the time so they could look after other animals. Training horses is easier because of their prey mindset which means they’re more alert during the training process.

Some people will say that dogs are more fun to train, though. Teaching a horse to sit or shake hands would be much more difficult than teaching those two tricks to a dog. I can’t even imagine what playing fetch with a horse would be like!

Final Thoughts

So which animal is more intelligent? The answer to that question will always be biased depending on who you ask. Since you can’t measure an animal’s intelligence with an IQ test, it’s impossible for us to know whether dogs are more intelligent than horses. They’re both unique in their own ways and have different motivations for doing the things that they do.

Dogs are predators which means they have hunting instincts because of which they’re slightly more intelligent than horses in certain areas. Horses like to live with other horses and they hate being alone because they’re prey animals and they don’t like to fight when they feel threatened. Their first instinct is to run.

Both horses and dogs are able to read our emotions and they both love to cheer us up by snuggling up to us when we’re sad. Horses can identify familiar faces and voices which is how they remember their owners. It’s easier to train horses because they’re prey animals, but I believe it’s more fun to teach tricks to dogs, but that’s just my opinion! In conclusion, which animal is more intelligent depends on what you want the animal to do, because they’re both intelligent in their own ways.