Horses 'can communicate with us' by pointing at symbols

Last updated at 07:17

Horses have joined a small group of animals that can communicate by pointing at symbols.

Scientists trained horses, by offering slices of carrot as a treat, to touch a board with their nose to point out if they wanted to wear a rug.

The horses chose a blanket in cold weather, but not when it was sunny, suggesting it wasn't a random choice.

A few other animals, including apes and dolphins, appear, like us, to make choices by pointing at things.

Horse, NorwayThinkstock
Different types of horse were studied

Dr Cecilie Mejdell of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, who led the research, said they wanted to find a way to ask the horse whether or not it liked wearing a blanket.

In Nordic countries, such as Norway and Finland, it is common for horses to wear a blanket in all weathers.

"Horses are often considered to be not very intelligent but this shows that using the right methods they can actually communicate and express their opinions and they can take choices that seem sensible to us even," she told the BBC.

The study is published in the journal, Applied Animal Behaviour Science.