One political note for the weekend: Ted Cruz is widely expected to finish his sweep the Colorado delegates today, a total of 45. Colorado has a weird process, as this NY Times article highlights, but yeah – Cruz is cruising!
As you all know, I am a huge animal lover, as are many of y’all who come by here. And as you can guess, there are often studies done on animals and their relationships to humans. But like so many studies, both here and abroad, the answer seems SO obvious, it boggles the mind why money is spent to arrive at the conclusion.
In this case, I refer to a study about horses and whether they can read the moods of people. From Discovery.com:
Horses understand and react to human facial expressions, suggesting that they get our moods and may even empathize with us.
A new study revealing how horses read human emotions puts horses on the very short list of known animals that understand our facial expressions. Only dogs have previously been shown to have the skill.
“It’s possible that horses developed this ability during their 6,000-year co-evolution with humans, or indeed that individual horses learn it during their lifetimes,” Amy Smith, who co-led the research, told Discovery News.
Earlier research found that horses recognize people and horses that they have only seen before in photographs, so they seem to perceive photos as we do. When first presented with photos, however, some horses examine the image from various angles, as if trying to find the rest of the individual.
Um, yes – horses are smart. That they can read emotions is also why they make such good therapy animals, whether they are in relationship with those who have some disability or another, or whether they receive a visit from a therapy mini-horse.
The study does raise a point about our emotions though, and the reaction of horses to it. That would be anger:
The horses’ reaction to angry faces was pronounced, the researchers report. The horses viewed these images primarily with their left eye, due to the right brain hemisphere’s specialization for processing threatening stimuli. (Information from the left eye is processed in the right hemisphere.)
“It gives us a real insight into how they are viewing the situation and shows clearly that they see it as negative,” McComb explained. “The way in which their heart rate increases also backs this up. So being in a negative mood around horses is not something that goes unnoticed and is likely to have negative impacts on behavior and physiology.” […] (Click here to read the rest.)
The article went on to discuss the impact on a horse when a rider or trainer gets stressed. It then stresses out the horse.
Then again, it is also my experience that being around horses immediately decreases stress. No matter how much I am hurting physically, which is stressful (those of you with chronic pain know what I mean), being in their presence, breathing deeply of their smell (especially my Jordan), always, always makes me feel better.
So yeah, not so sure they really needed to do a study on horses and their humans, but I reckon it confirms what many of us already knew to be true, so there is that. People always seem to underestimate animals, don’t they?
But one animal that should not be underestimated is the American crow. There have been some studies done of them, too, and what they reveal are just how amazing these birds are. Check out this little tidbit from Audubon Magazine:
The crows in your neighborhood know your block better than you do. They know the garbage truck routes. They know which kids drop animal crackers and which ones throw rocks. They know the pet dogs, and they might even play with the friendly ones. If you feed them, they probably not only recognize you but your car as well, and they might just leave you trinkets in return. These birds live their lives intertwined with ours, carefully observing us even as most of us barely take note of them. That’s how they survive, and they’re good at it: In recent decades the American Crow has taken over our suburbs, and even moved into the hearts of our big cities. As we’ve reshaped the landscape, we’ve created an ideal environment for an animal that is canny and perceptive enough to exploit our riches.
I thought this part was especially fascinating:
[…] Experiments in the 1990s and early 2000s demonstrated that mammals ranging from monkeys to sheep could recognize individual human faces. People had often claimed that crows could recognize them, too, but Marzluff decided to actually test it.
As they trapped and banded crows around the University of Washington’s Seattle campus, he and his collaborators wore a latex caveman mask. When they later returned to those locations, either maskless or wearing a Dick Cheney mask the crows had never seen before, the birds ignored them. But anybody showing up in a caveman mask would spark a crowpocalypse. It wasn’t just the trapped birds that responded; apparently others had witnessed the abduction and remembered it. Whole gangs of crows followed the evildoer, scolding and dive-bombing. The birds knew that caveman face, and they didn’t like it one bit.
It was an impressive demonstration, says Heinrich, Marzluff’s former post-doc adviser: “He put it on the map. The rest of us just took it for granted.”
Every so often Marzluff’s group retests the birds. It’s been 10 years, and not only have the crows not forgotten, the knowledge keeps spreading. When a crow sees other birds mobbing, it joins in, learning and remembering the identity of the villain. Each time, more birds mob and scold. Nearly all of the birds originally trapped by the caveman are likely dead by now, yet the legend of Seattle’s Great Crow Satan still grows. […] (Click here to read the rest.)
Isn’t that just astonishing?? That the crows essentially have a BOLO (Be On The LookOut) system for people that did them wrong and more is amazing.
I know from having read a Smithsonian article years ago that the term “birdbrain” wasn’t really the insult people intended – they are quite smart and crows especially so (the article above mentions their big brains). But still, the way they communicate, the trinkets they often leave those humans who feed them, and their complex systems are really something. And they are so cute when they play:
Animals are just so incredible, aren’t they? And one thing I know for sure is that they are a lot easier on the nerves than Politics, especially during this Campaign season. So I hope you enjoy your Weekend departure from Politics, though you know you are welcome to discuss whatever you wish.
I leave you with a little horse therapy – a video of one of my favorite breeds, the Friesian:
Stunning. Just stunning LOVE these horses! (Oh, who am I kidding – I love all horses, but you gotta admit, these are some mighty fine lookers and movers!)
Okay, folks – this is the Weekend Open Thread.