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First Posted: Oct 14, 2012
Nov 7, 2014

Do horses expect humans to solve their problems?

C. Lesimple1*, C. Sankey 1, M. A. Richard2 and M. Hausberger 1,2
1 Laboratoire d'Éthologie Animale et Humaine EthoS - UMR CNRS 6552, Station Biologique, Université de Rennes 1, Paimpont, France
2 Laboratoire d'Éthologie Animale et Humaine EthoS - UMR CNRS 6552, Campus de Beaulieu, Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, France
Edited by: Jeffrey R. Stevens, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA
Reviewed by: Jozsef Topal, Institute of Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary
Valérie Dufour, CNRS, France
*Correspondence: C. Lesimple, Laboratoire EthoS - UMR 6552, Station, Biologique, Université de Rennes 1, 35380 Paimpont, France.
e-mail: clemence.lesimple@univ-rennes1.fr

"Domestic animals are highly capable of detecting human cues, while wild relatives tend to perform less well (e.g., responding to pointing gestures). It is suggested that domestication may have led to the development of such cognitive skills. Here, we hypothesized that because domestic animals are so attentive and dependant to humans' actions for resources, the counter effect may be a decline of self sufficiency, such as individual task solving. Here we show a negative correlation between the performance in a learning task (opening a chest) and the interest shown by horses toward humans, despite high motivation expressed by investigative behaviors directed at the chest. If human-directed attention reflects the development of particular skills in domestic animals, this is to our knowledge the first study highlighting a link between human-directed behaviors and impaired individual solving task skills (ability to solve a task by themselves) in horses...."

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