Give it a whorl: Predicting laterality in horses



A facial double whorl, both running clockwise.
A facial double whorl, both running clockwise.

Facial hair whorls provide a non-invasive way to predict the turning response of horses, American researchers report.

The researchers undertook a pilot study to test for an association between facial hair whorl characteristics and behavioral responses to a fearful stimulus in horses.

Nineteen riding horses were categorized based on hair whorl characteristics – their height, lateral location, and rotation.

Each horse was subjected to a novel object test where an umbrella was suddenly opened.

The turning response of each horse was recorded.

“Hair whorl rotation showed a correlation with turning response,” Chelsey Shivley, Temple Grandin and Mark Deesing reported in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

“The horses with clockwise facial hair whorls turned to the right and the horses with counterclockwise facial hair whorls turned to the left more than would be expected by chance.”

There were no significant correlations between hair whorl lateral location or height and direction turned.

The evidence suggested that facial hair whorls in horses were a useful tool for predicting laterality – the dominance of one side of the brain in controlling particular activities or functions.

“In conclusion, facial hair whorls may be used as a non-invasive method to predict turning response in horses.”

Shivley and Grandin are with the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins; Deesing is with Grandin Livestock Handling Systems Inc, also based in Fort Collins.

Behavioral laterality and facial hair whorls in horses
Chelsey Shivley, Temple Grandin, Mark Deesing.

The abstract of the study can be read here

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One thought on “Give it a whorl: Predicting laterality in horses

  • March 12, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Looks to me as if the horse in the photo has the one on (my) left going counter clockwise.


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