New Research Shows Horses and Humans Share Similar Facial Expressions

September 26, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. expression /ɪkˈsprɛʃ ən/ (n.) – an indication or display of one’s feelings
Example: He had a tired expression on his face after the race.

2. behavior /bɪˈheɪv yər/ (n.) – the way humans or animals act
Example: Talking with others is natural behavior among people.

3. similar /ˈsɪm ə lər/ (adj.) – being alike or being the same
Example: Because they are brothers, they look similar.

4. burnout /ˈbɜrnˌaʊt/ (n.) – tiredness or frustration from stress
Example: Some doctors and nurses experience burnout because of their stressful jobs.

5. affect /əˈfɛkt/ (v.) – to produce an effect in something
Example: Going through a tragedy can negatively affect someone.


Read the text below.
According to research, horses have facial expressions that are similar to those of humans.

Researchers from the University of Sussex [SUHS-iks] worked with researchers from the University of Portsmouth [PAWRTS-muh th] and Duquesne [doo-KEYN] University to develop the Equine Facial Action Coding System (EquiFACS) used in the experiment. EquiFACS is a tool used to identify a horse’s facial movements. The researchers also analyzed a video showing horses’ different natural behaviors and investigated horses’ facial muscles.

The study revealed that horses can change their facial expression depending on the situation. Through analysis, researchers also found that horses can do 17 facial expressions, many of which are similar to human facial expressions. Even with different facial structures, horses and humans were found to have some similar lip and eye movements that create various expressions. In addition, the study also found that horses can do more facial expressions than dogs and chimpanzees, which have 16 and 13 facial expressions respectively.

Professor Karen McComb [muh-KOHM], one of the study’s lead authors, added that social factors affect how facial expressions develop through time. She also stated that the results of the study can be useful when it comes to studying horses’ social behavior and practices.

Other than facial expressions, previous studies found that horses can also be affected by the same stressors that affect humans. These stressors include adjusting to new and challenging tasks, doing boring routines, and having poor relationships. Professor Martine Hausberger [HOUS-ber-ger] suggested that stressors related to training also result in the horses’ burnout and unresponsiveness.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         In what other ways are humans and animals alike?
·         Do you think animals also have emotions? Why do you say so?

Discussion B

·         Why do you think researchers are interested in finding similarities between humans and animals?
·         Do you think researchers should study more about the similarities between humans and animals? Why or why not?

September 26, 2015