Do Horses Grieve Like Humans? A Bit


Jamie Cearley, PhDDo horses grieve when their buddy dies? I believe they do. It is true that their grief experience is not like that of us humans in every facet. However, the more I have witnessed the effects Twisters death has had on our herd the more convinced I have become that horses and humans share some of the more weighty aspects of grief.

Twister was the uncontested boss of our six-horse herd for years. From day one, he was so firmly in command a subtle ear flick was all he needed to impart his directives. Many times his communication was invisible to us humans, leading us to wonder if he possessed some sort of psychological telepathic abilities.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday, late in the afternoon; supper time for the herd. Earlier that day we had been riding, me on Poncho, my husband on Twister, trotting side by side in an attempt to stay close enough together to hold a short string between us. This was a real challenge for Poncho and I since Twister was always playing his mind tricks and not wanting to allow Poncho alongside. I often struggled with what I referred to as “the Twister effect” in working to establish my leadership position with Poncho.

Twister   Poncho and Twister

Later that afternoon Twister had given a young girl her very first horse ride. She was elated. He was so confident, he could make just about anyone feel like a winner.

Little girl riding Twister. 

2/24/2015 8:14:43 AM

Thank you Lee for sharing your experience with Princess. I love hearing about peoples animals, and their relationships. Your herd is very lucky to have you.

2/23/2015 11:55:55 AM

Have never had horses but have a herd of donkeys. When the matriarch died about 2 years ago I watched them close ranks around Princess. Princess was a six month old that was suddenly orphaned. After going through the process of having each donkey pair with her for a period she and her gelding brother have become a pair. I call them the twins that were born 13 months apart. Since all but one of the herd is related fairly closely it is as much a family thing as a herd thing. I saw denial (pawing at the grave) and anger (stomping her hoof till it abscessed) and finally acceptance. For a while they visited the grave but that seems to have passed. Animals have grief and they seem to have other aspects of human behavior as well. Perhaps we are not as unique as we think.

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