Do horses know when humans cry?
Do horses know when humans cry?

Do Horses Know When Humans Cry?

Do Horses Know When Humans Cry?

When it comes to understanding the emotional states of humans, horses have long been regarded as perceptive animals. Many horse owners and enthusiasts have claimed that horses can sense when humans are sad or upset, even going as far as comforting them. But do horses really possess this ability? In this article, we will explore the fascinating topic of whether horses can truly recognize when humans cry and provide insights into their empathetic nature.

The Emotional Intelligence of Horses

Horses are highly social animals that have evolved to live in herds, relying on strong bonds and communication with their fellow herd members. This social nature has led to the development of remarkable emotional intelligence in horses, allowing them to understand and respond to the emotions of those around them, including humans.

Research has shown that horses are capable of recognizing and interpreting human facial expressions. They can distinguish between happy and angry faces, indicating their ability to perceive and respond to human emotions. This suggests that horses possess a level of emotional intelligence that enables them to understand when humans are experiencing different emotional states, including sadness.

Empathy in Horses

Empathy refers to the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. While it is challenging to measure empathy in animals, there is evidence to suggest that horses display empathetic behavior towards both their fellow horses and humans.

Studies have shown that horses can mirror the emotional states of their human handlers. When a person is stressed or anxious, horses may become more alert and vigilant, reflecting the emotional state of their human companion. This mirroring behavior indicates a level of empathy and suggests that horses are capable of picking up on human emotions.

Recognizing Human Crying

While there is limited scientific research specifically addressing whether horses can recognize when humans cry, anecdotal evidence from horse owners and trainers suggests that horses do have the ability to detect tears and respond accordingly.

One possible explanation for this ability is the unique scent that accompanies emotional tears. Emotional tears contain different chemical compounds compared to tears produced from irritants, such as onions or dust. Horses, with their keen sense of smell, may be able to detect these chemical differences and associate them with human emotional distress.

Furthermore, horses are highly attuned to non-verbal cues and body language. When a person is crying, their facial expressions, posture, and overall demeanor change. Horses, being perceptive animals, can pick up on these subtle changes and interpret them as signs of distress.

Comforting Behavior

Many horse owners have reported instances where their horses have displayed comforting behavior towards them when they were upset or crying. These behaviors can include nuzzling, leaning against the person, or simply standing quietly by their side.

While it is difficult to determine the exact motivations behind these actions, they are often interpreted as acts of empathy and support. Horses may instinctively recognize that their human companion is in distress and respond in a way that provides comfort and reassurance.

Benefits of Horses’ Emotional Perception

The ability of horses to recognize and respond to human emotions can have several benefits, both for individuals and in therapeutic settings:

  • Horses can provide emotional support and comfort to individuals experiencing distress.
  • Interacting with horses can help humans develop emotional awareness and regulation skills.
  • Horses are often used in therapeutic interventions, such as equine-assisted therapy, to assist individuals with mental health challenges.
  • The presence of horses can create a calming and soothing environment, reducing stress and anxiety.


While scientific research on the topic is limited, anecdotal evidence and observations from horse owners suggest that horses possess the ability to recognize when humans cry. Their emotional intelligence and empathetic nature enable them to pick up on subtle cues and respond in a comforting manner. The unique bond between humans and horses continues to be a source of fascination and therapeutic benefit. So, the next time you find yourself shedding tears in the presence of a horse, remember that they may understand your emotions more than you think.


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