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Trained Quantity Abilities in Horses (Equus caballus): A Preliminary Investigation

Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova, Italy
Behav. Sci. 2014, 4(3), 213-225;
Received: 11 June 2014 / Revised: 11 July 2014 / Accepted: 15 July 2014 / Published: 25 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Animal Cognition)
PDF [199 KB, uploaded 25 July 2014]


Once believed to be a human prerogative, the capacity to discriminate between quantities now has also been reported in several vertebrates. To date, only two studies investigated numerical abilities in horses (Equus caballus) but reported contrasting data. To assess whether horses can be trained to discriminate between quantities, I have set up a new experimental protocol using operant conditioning. One adult female was trained to discriminate between 1 and 4 (Test 1) in three different conditions: non-controlled continuous variables (numerical and continuous quantities that co-vary with number are simultaneously available), 50% controlled continuous variables (intermediate condition), and 100% controlled continuous variables (only numerical information available). The subject learned the discrimination in all conditions, showing the capacity to process numerical information. When presented with a higher numerical ratio (2 vs. 4, Test 2), the subject still discriminated between the quantities but its performance was statistically significant only in the non-controlled condition, suggesting that the subject used multiple cues in presence of a more difficult discrimination. On the whole, the results here reported encourage the use of this experimental protocol as a valid tool to investigate the capacity to process numerical and continuous quantities in horses in future research. View Full-Text
Keywords: Equus caballus; quantity discrimination; continuous quantities Equus caballus; quantity discrimination; continuous quantities

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Petrazzini, M.E.M. Trained Quantity Abilities in Horses (Equus caballus): A Preliminary Investigation. Behav. Sci. 2014, 4, 213-225.

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