Seriously. One of my favorite blogs, Petistic, tips us off to scientific research around horse speak:
A new database of horse talk and behaviour could help take the mystery out of a horse whisperer’s job, US researchers hope.
Researchers at the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Connecticut are compiling the database in an attempt to correlate nuances in horse whinnies with their differences stress levels.
The Equine Vocalization Project could help shed light on the communication styles of other equines, such as donkeys and zebras, and even improve how veterinarians, behaviourists, breeders or other animal handlers relate to horses.
Unlike the monotonal vocalisations of cows, goats, and sheep, horses emit a range of sounds from snorts, blows and sighs to whinnies, which also come in the form of nickers and squeals. The scientists have begun compiling their database of horse vocalisations from their own recordings and from those of other researchers. The vocalisations are analysed with acoustic software that plots the sound over time.
As part of the project, they will also be collecting vocalisations of three species of zebra – one that brays like a donkey, one that whinnies like a horse, and one that barks like a dog – to try and get a more complete picture of equine vocalisations.
This reminds me of the story about word of mouth among killer whales.