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10 Incredible Facts You Didn’t Know About Horses

Horses have accompanied humans for thousands of years; they’ve been our companions, our friends, our means of transportation and even work tools. As such, they’re an instantly recognizable and familiar sight, even though increasingly many of us only ever really see them on television or in our grandparents’ pictures.

It’s a shame, really, because these noble animals are well worth the attention and love. However, you probably don’t know the whole story; there are facts about horses few people know, and these particular 10 might be interesting. Check it out!

10. The “Horse Laugh”

The “Horse Laugh”

You may have seen a horse making a strange expression where it curls its upper lip and bares its teeth into a wide grin. This makes the animal look like it’s laughing. In reality, this is part of a special nose-enhancing technique called a flehmen response. Horses pull this amusing face in order to direct scents floating in the air toward special olfactory glands that are located at the end of the horse’s nasal passage. The horse isn’t laughing at you, it’s just trying to determine whether you smell bad.

9. The Horse Industry

The Horse Industry

For people who have never been involved with horses, it’s easy to assume all they need is some hay every now and then, a field to run around on, and a preteen girl or two to swoon over them. However, Horses are used for various competitions and sports, breeding, recreation, and plain old work. Approximately 4.6 million Americans work in the horse industry in one way or another.

8. Police Horses

Police Horses

Police horses have been used in peacetime law enforcement since the 17th century and the first official mounted police unit was established in 1805. This London-based unit was a massive success, and in a few years, both Australia and America had adopted the idea. The number of police horses is slowly waning due to the advent of police motorcycles and other modes of light transport, but many countries still keep a few mounted units around for public relations and crowd-control purposes.

7. Eyes from horse

Eyes from horse

Horses have fairly good eyesight, thanks to their very peculiar eyes. At a diameter of roughly 5 centimeters (2 in), they are the largest of any land mammal. When measured in volume, a horse’s eye is up to nine times larger than that of a human. Legend has it that this means horses see things as bigger than humans, which is why they sometimes startle easily, but this is not true.

6. Equid Hybrids

Equid Hybrids

Equid hybrids are, as the name tactfully suggests, hybrid animals that are bred from the three equid species—zebras, donkeys, and horses. Most people know about the mule, the cross of a donkey male and a horse female. However, it is only one of the many, many equid hybrids out there. Equid hybrids have been created since the start of the 20th century.

5. Horse Shoes

Horse Shoes

Everyone knows most horses are fitted with horseshoes, but most people aren’t aware that these curved pieces of metal are not just to protect the hoof. The hard parts of horse hooves are made of keratin and therefore leave a lot to be desired when it comes to things like traction. Imagine running around a wet, paved street wearing horns as shoes and you can see the problem.

4. Horse Names

Horse Names

If you’ve ever been to a horse race, you probably know that most horse names are ridiculous. Cats and dogs are usually given cute, powerful, or human-like names, but horses tend to end up with names like “Seabiscuit”, “Horlicks” or “Ohnoitsmymotherinlaw.” As random as this may seem, there are actually many traditions and superstitions associated with naming horses. If a horse gets famous enough, its name might be pulled from use altogether, much in the same way some sports retire the numbers of particularly legendary athletes.

3. Arabian Horses

Arabian Horses

Most horses can be quite beautiful creatures when they put their mind to it, but many people consider the Arabian horse the most majestic of all. We know that they first appeared at least 4,500 years ago, which also makes them one of the oldest horse breeds. It is generally assumed that the Bedouin, who are noted for their passion for horse breeding, are behind the creation of the Arabian breed. Arab horses are considered some of the strongest endurance runners in animal kingdom, capable of running over 160 kilometers (100 mi) without rest.

2. Horse Meat

Horse Meat

Despite recent scandals that indicate otherwise, horse meat is considered a delicacy in many countries. France in particular is extremely partial not only to horse meat, but also horse brains and horse heart. The French are not alone, either. In fact, horses have been eaten as long as they’ve been around. During times of war, horses have served as an important—and relatively cheap—source of protein. In times of peace, it’s eaten because it just happens to taste good.

1. Memory – horse intelligence

Memory - horse intelligence

A 2010 study revealed some very surprising results about horse intelligence, especially memory. Not only does our equine friend understand our words far better than we have previously anticipated, its memory is at least as good as that of an elephant. If a horse is treated kindly, it will remember the person as a friend for as long as it lives. The horse will instantly resume friendship when it sees them again, regardless of how long they have been apart.

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