London, Dec 16 (ANI): Horses have an almost human ability to recognise individual herd members from the sound of their whinnies, a study has shown.
The findings suggest that the "cross modal" recognition once thought to be a purely human trait is evident in animals too.
To reach the conclusion, the researchers at the University of Sussex studied a group of 24 horses with the animals shown one of two familiar members of their herd who was led past them and out of sight behind a barrier.
After a 10 second delay, the horses were played a recorded whinny either from the herd-mate they had seen, or from the other animal.
When the sound did not match the herd-member seen walking behind the barrier, the horses seemed startled. They responded more quickly and looked in the direction of the call for longer.
The research suggests that hearing the sound of a whinny conjures up visual memories of a horse's appearance.
Whinnies are made by both adult and young horses when they become separated from the group.
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Overall, horses responded quicker and looked for a longer time during trials in which the familiar call heard did not match the familiar horse previously seen, indicating that the incongruent combination violated their expectations," the Telegraph quoted the scientists, led by Dr Karen McComb, as saying.
"This is the first clear empirical demonstration that in the normal process of identifying social companions of its own species, a non-human animal is capable of cross-modal individual recognition," they added. (ANI)