funny story of a learned horse

“Bates de Science” is like a collection of stories. Beautiful stories that tell of living in all its freshness. But also in all its complexity. A parenthesis to marvel at the treasures of the world. Going a little off the beaten track for this new episode, let’s take a look at one animal in particular, a horse named Hans the Cleaver.

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An Asian elephant brilliantly passed an intelligence test that a two-year-old fails: You can’t pull off a mat if you’re on it. Experiments conducted by the Think Elephants International Association show that the elephant is aware of its body, as also revealed by the mirror test. A rare ability in the animal world.

The legends of our regions tell disturbing stories, especially on horseback. In Alsace, it is rumored that he is the beast of Satan. The one who troubles lonely travelers. In Provence, it is reported that he wanders the streets at night to kidnap children unknowingly. In Normandy, we are mindful of its ability to hypnotize people. Thus many people would have been dragged into the sea, without ever returning.

Still, almost like a dog, horse Maintains a very special relationship with people. Woven by millennia of shared adventures. He is also capable of inter-species communication. About what ? To exchange with people. To draw their attention to something. From his point of view. Recognizing faces or reading emotions. And also learn to designate symbols to express themselves. or observe men to understand how to unwind a door. Researchers cite impressive social cognitive skills.

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And this is what brings us today to tell the story of one particular horse: Hans the Clever. or clever swan, for the Anglosaxons. He XX. became known at the beginning ofI century. While the whole of Europe – and even the United States – was discovering its intellectual abilities. Hans was able to solve quite simply math problems basic. Well, more precisely to say that he was able to do addition and subtraction. But, for the horse, it’s already great.

Hans, the horse who wanted to pretend to be smarter than him

When his mentor, William von Osten, a German former mathematics professor, asked him how much two plus four was, the horse would simply tap its paw six times. Amazing, isn’t it? And perhaps even more so when we know that swans also responded to actions done by other humans. Enough to lead a group of scientific experts to exclude any possibility of deception and to “Give utmost importance to this remarkable horse”.

But that was without relying on what we were talking about above. Impressive social cognitive skills of horses. Because You Can Well Imagine It: Horses Don’t Know make modifications. Subtraction also less. Macaques and bees know. But not horses. On the other hand, they know – and especially Hans clever – read in us as an open book.

This was observed by Oscar Pfungst, a student of philosophy and medicine. During his experiments with the Evil Swan, he noted that the horse routinely seemed to be wrong when those interrogating him were themselves unaware of the expected outcome. or when they were out of it field of view.

So the horse, far from knowing how to count – but not even his five fingers -, read or solve arithmetic problems, they applied themselves quite simply to observing the visual stimuli of the humans in front of them – including unconsciously. And that’s what researchers now say “Try Clever Swan”, the effect by which a person can elicit a motor response from an animal – or another person.

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Meanwhile, Evil Swan has a less spectacular ending. Having become a military horse, he was probably killed at the front in 1916. Then, they were eaten by soldiers… but their ability to analyze human reactions is nonetheless exceptional. And finally, Clever Hans… wasn’t really that stupid!

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About the Author: Abbott Hopkins

Analyst. Amateur problem solver. Wannabe internet expert. Coffee geek. Tv guru. Award-winning communicator. Food nerd.

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