Shetland Ponies (Equus caballus) Show Quantity Discrimination

A research study was published online from the 3rd International Equine Science Meeting 2015 Network Meeting. The study, titled, ���Shetland ponies (Equus caballus) show quantity discrimination,” is available in full text online.

“To date only limited information is available on the learning ability of the horse including higher order cognition. A type of higher order cognition is to perceive and discriminate quantities … In the present study we wanted to show whether Shetland ponies are able to transfer a previously learned concept of sameness to a numerosity judgment … One pony could transfer all judgments to the mixed symbols (up to 4 vs. 5), another pony up to 3 vs. 5 and the third on the level 2 vs. 3. These are the first reported findings that ponies are able to discriminate up to five objects. The numerosity judgment seemed to be easier for the ponies when homogenous objects were presented, than in the case of heterogeneous symbols. The reaction of the ponies occurred within few seconds, suggesting that the animals used subitizing for their numerosity judgment.”


Vivian Gabor and Martina Gerken, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Department of Animal Sciences, Ecology of Livestock Production, Göttingen, Germany.

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