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Horse Yawning and Eye Rolling

What is a horse really feeling when he yawns or rolls his eyes? It's not always what you'd think.

Horses communicate with each other using a language of gestures that can involve various parts of the body. In his film, "Such is the Real Nature of Horses," photographer Robert Vavra captured some unusual primitive behavior among horses that taught him, and the scientists with him, a thing or two about equine communication. One of the surprises was the use of the yawn.

"Horses usually yawn because of anxiety. In the film you see a stallion passing another stallion who has a mare in estrus. And as the foreign stallion passes, the other one looks at him and yawns twice. And we saw this again and again."

Another surprise was the use of eye rolling. Instead of indicating fear, as we might expect, it was observed to be a threatening gesture when used between horses.


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