A recently published study suggests that horses tend to snort when they are feeling good.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rennes, examined the snorts made by 48 horses living in either restricted conditions or more natural settings. The horses living in restricted conditions tended to produce more snorts when they were allowed to explore open pastures. The horses living in the more natural settings tended to produce more snorts overall than did those living in restricted conditions. Coupled with data on the horses’ ear positions — another indicator of emotional status among horses — the researchers came to the conclusion that horses tend to snort more when they are feeling good.
“The snort, a non-vocal signal produced by the air expiration through the nostrils, is associated with more positive contexts (in pasture, while feeding) and states (with ears on forward position) in horses. Moreover, it is less frequent in horses showing an altered welfare. These results provide a potential important tool as snorts appear as a possible reliable indicator of positive emotions which could help identify situations appreciated by horses.”
— Mathilde Stomp, Researcher, University of Rennes