Are Horses Smarter Than Dogs?

Both horses and dogs are extremely smart. But if you are wondering who is more intelligent – horses or dogs – that’s a tough question we must say. In fact, horses are rather quick-witted, however, dogs don’t concede to this characteristic. Thus, we should focus on the quintessence of dogs and horse intelligence.

Horses and dogs are known for outstanding things they’re capable of doing. For instance, dogs are used as a seeing-eye companion to help blind people. They can “smell” danger and warn its owner about the impending disaster.

On the contrary, horses can be trained with a wide array of commands to perform in different horse shows. They are also highly sensitive, so they can feel whether you’re in the mood or not.

That’s why it’s really hard to answer the question “Are horses smarter than dogs?” As these species are hard to compare. Both of them exhibit fascinating abilities and both of the animals can be great friends for humans. Let’s have a look at why these creatures are so special.

buckskin horse close up

Let’s Get Back to Basics

Speaking of the difference between horses and dogs on the instinctual level, these species belong to opposite sides of the food chain. A dog is deemed as a predator as its ancestors used to hunt to survive. Of course, domestic dogs don’t need to amble over in the woods to catch the prey. However, some basic instincts are still on as well as the body is built the way they are able to attack.

Alternatively, horses are claimed as prey creatures. It’s a herd animal that tends to consume plant-based food. You may face stories telling that horses eat meat but actually, that’s not the obligatory part of their nutrition. In fact, horses may try to taste meat when they are extremely starving or they are just curious about the new type of treats.

Predators are said to be more intelligent animals as they need to make more effort to stalk and catch the prey. Hence, the prey is less smart as grazing on the field is not so complicated and it doesn’t require any advanced skills. Having said that, keep in mind that domestic animals don’t need to hunt or hide anymore. Thus, the species background is not the key factor of being intelligent.

cockapoo is having fun at the park

Emotional Intelligence Compared

Horse intelligence highly stands out in terms of emotional bonding. As we already mentioned, a horse is a herd animal, thus, it feels cozy surrounded by its hooved peers. Originally, horses used to gather to protect each other. The interesting fact is when it’s time to nap, they don’t fall asleep altogether. One part of the herd stays up watching the rest of the folks sleeping. And then they switch the turn.

That’s why horses have a strong connection with their pals. And this goes for bonding with humans too. Horses can easily recognize your emotions and react respectively. Therefore, it’s not recommended to visit your companion when you’re angry, irritated, or hysterical. Such states are not the best time to strengthen relations. Especially if you are new to each other.

In addition, horses can remember the voice of its owner with no probs. Once an equine manages to recognize your tone, he won’t confuse it with any other noise. Depending on how you sound, your companion can feel if you’re excited or upset. There’s a horse therapy called hippotherapy that helps to treat people through communication with horses.

As for dogs, their strong emotional intelligence also allows them to get on well with humans. Our paw friends can interpret our feelings and respond accordingly. Researchers claim that their brain activity starts to scale up as soon as they see their owner. When you get back home, serve food, stroke, make gestures – all of these are clear signs for a dog to react immediately.

The dog is a descendent of the wolf, thus, it’s a herd animal too. It’s been honing its communication skills for ages. Dogs are capable of building social relationships with humans by recognizing and reacting to man’s emotions. They can control their mood, empathize, and persuade the owner to act in a specific way.

That’s why canines can understand when you’re in a good and bad mood. They can even repeat some moves after you like running or yawning. Therefore, people who own a dog consider him a family member, not a pet.

man is sitting between a horse and dog

Horse Training vs Dog Training

If you want to enhance your bond with your companion and gain its loyalty, constant training is a must. This goes for both dogs and horses. Some breeds are easier to train but all of them need special care and regular attention. There are even equine trainers who also specialize in training dogs as they have similar strategies to follow.

Both dogs and horses are herd animals, and naturally, they seek for an alpha to obey. The supreme should express excellent leadership skills to take control of the herd or a single creature. Thus, there’s a myriad of horse and dog training techniques that help you to show your dominance in a proper way.

However, as it’s said above, dogs are predator animals. Because of such a mindset, they can be highly rebellious at the beginning. Specific methods should be applied to these canines. On the contrary, equines may be more flexible because of their prey mindset. Nevertheless, bonding with dogs and horses is possible as they are social creatures.

When it comes to training, both the horse and dog can learn a set of commands to respond. They have a strong willingness to be taught, if motivated aptly, you may achieve ace outcomes. A well-trained companion will be a paramount helper and loyal friend.

woman is training her grey horse

Curious Facts about Horse Intelligence

Here’s a list of interesting facts revealing how smart horses are:

  • Horses read our emotions. Equines can flawlessly recognize their owner’s emotions and feelings. They respond accordingly when you’re upbeat or disappointed.
  • Horses can talk. Since horses can feel our emotions, they can respond to them. Their reaction is a way to communicate with the horseman. Besides, hooved pals can be trained to ask for a horse blanket if they need it.
  • Horses recognize your voice. Apart from reading emotions, equines can catch “audio signals” coming out of your mouth. Over time, they learn how to recognize your voice and respond only to it.
  • Horses recognize your face. Equines can match your voice with your face too. In the case of spending lots of time with your companion, your hooved chum gets used to your presence better and faster.
woman is training her dog

Curious Facts about Dog Intelligence

  • Dogs are socially intelligent. We can easily get on with a dog as it has great cognitive skills. They feel our emotions and can react accordingly. That’s why lots of people get a pet dog to improve their social life.
  • Dogs can understand us. Canines feel our mood and can respond by reading our behavior. Some researchers claim that canines can differ specific words you say.
  • Dogs can read your voice. It’s claimed that the canine’s brain activity responds in a different way while you experience various emotions. Therefore, judged by your voice, your pet can understand whether you’re happy or not.
  • Dogs can be jealous. Researches show that canines may feel jealous in various situations. Experiments were held where a stuffed dog was treated well and a real dog was ignored. The last one started to show signs of jealousy by growling and snapping.
horse and dog are having fun together

Horses and Dogs Having Fun Together

Everybody is aware of the dog’s demeanor when it wants to play. Canines start to wag their tail and bend down with the front legs. They tend to chase each other, mirror each other’s moves, and make a “smile” facial expression.

Now we may face bonding between various species like dogs and horses. Due to the prolonged process of domestication, these creatures can coexist peacefully and spend time together with no worries.

There are dozens of videos showing how dogs and horses may seamlessly interact with each other. Both of them can initiate the playtime and kindly respond to have fun. As we already found out, these species are capable of reading facial expressions. Thus, they are able to mirror each other’s behavior and react accordingly.

That’s why we can witness the play between a horse and a dog while pals are jumping, running, and chasing each other. Besides, they can also play with another object together like a ball or a toy. Fellows can team up to fool around with knick-knacks.

Researchers tested the playtime behavior of both of these species and concluded that they are not so different as we might think. Dogs and horses operate similar patterns when it comes to bonding with other animals. Hence, various species can find a common ground through having a ball together.

woman is riding on the beach with her dog


In the nutshell, horse intelligence is highly developed as well as dog intelligence is. Both of them can recognize your emotions and read your facial expressions. Horses can feel your mood and help you unwind while dogs are good defenders.

Horses and dogs require proper training to improve your bond and their loyalty. Once you hone your communication with your companion, you’ll interact flawlessly. You can demonstrate your results performing at horse and dog shows.

Despite the fact that the dog is a predator and the horse is a prey, nowadays they can spend time together as good friends. As the demeanor is similar, they can invite other animals to play and respond kindly.