dog and horse Are horses smarter than dogs?

Are horses smarter than dogs?

Are horses or dogs smarter? This question is not so easy to answer.

For one thing, they have different strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, corresponding studies are still rare.

Nevertheless, we have found some answers that you will surely find interesting.

In this guide, you will learn whether horses are more intelligent than dogs and whether there is a simple answer to this question. We also show you which factors play a decisive role in the development of intelligence.

Are horses smarter than dogs?

There is no simple answer to this question!

For sure, it will surprise you, as people tend to classify and make clear gradations.

While both dogs and horses are very intelligent animals, they have different strengths and weaknesses.

However, they also have commonalities that bring decisive advantages when dealing with other species.

Let’s take a closer look at these.
How smart are horses?

First, we need to clarify what intelligence actually means and how it is defined.

This is not easy, because there are numerous definitions and different types of intelligence.

These include, for example:

being able to use tools
abstract thinking
social intelligence
solving problems
ego awareness
object permanence

It is difficult for horses to use tools and aids because of their physique. However, they are able to learn how to operate switches, levers or doorbells.

Horses that open doors and gates, pull lids off containers or operate light switches – because they have observed a human or another animal doing so – are not uncommon.

So they can certainly solve problems and tasks.

They occasionally even “use” humans to do so, as the following example shows.
An example of the intelligence of horses: hidden treats and communication

An experiment was conducted to test how horses behave when treats are in sight but out of their reach.

The result was surprising. The animals turned to their caretakers or owners and repeatedly pointed to the buckets with the treats by making eye contact.

Partly they became additionally physically emphatic, in order to refer “their” humans to their desire.

In doing so, they proceeded in a graduated manner. For example, if the person had seen carrots being placed in a bucket, the horses repeatedly pointed in that direction with their heads.

If, on the other hand, the person had not seen the hiding, the animals were more insistent.

This shows that horses use people as helpers and communicate with them.
Social intelligence in horses

Horses are herd animals that can communicate with each other very clearly and strongly.

They can also recognize people’s moods by facial expressions, posture and tone, and can get used to other animals.

So in terms of social intelligence, horses are way ahead.

At this point, it’s time for the second example:
Can horses do math?

You may have heard of the horse “Clever Hans.”

This stallion was supposedly able to count and calculate. No wonder, because one of his owners was a math teacher.

By audibly treading with one hoof, he indicated the numbers.

This ability was apparently disproved.

At least, it is now assumed that instead of counting and calculating, “Clever Hans” recognized minimal details in the body language and facial expressions of his owner and used them as a guide.

What is the IQ of a horse?

Horses can learn complex processes, interpret sign language, understand facial expressions, gestures and body language.

They can remember for an amazingly long time and are socially intelligent.

However, just as with humans or dogs, it is not possible to give an exact IQ value and it differs from test to test and from individual to individual.
How smart is a dog?

Horses have been domesticated since the Bronze Age – about 4,200 to 5,000 years ago. Dogs have been with mankind for much longer.

They have been pets for at least 15,000 years, making them the longest domesticated animals of all.

They live closely together with humans, were bred for various tasks and are considered to be extremely intelligent.

However, just as with horses, there are still countless unanswered questions about them.

However, it is now clear that they have at least the intelligence of a small child.

They can learn complex processes and up to 165 terms, are used as guide dogs, police dogs and therapy animals.

They have a high social competence and intelligence, can read and recognize just like horses, moods and moods at facial expressions, by eye contacts, from voice pitches and body posture.

They also have a good memory and are capable of amazing feats. Operating switches, opening doors, recognizing the change of traffic lights, finding people or drugs – the list is extremely long in dogs.

However, intelligence in them, just like in horses, depends on various factors.
What does intelligence depend on?

Several influences play crucial roles.

These include:


The breed gives information about the interpretation and an indication of the respective strengths.

The rearing, including encouragement, demands, habituation to humans, other creatures and the training as well as the education has an influence on how horse and dog deal with other species and problems or challenges.

In addition, there is the individual. Not every horse is equally fast or equally smart. The same is true for dogs.

Some are socially gifted, but perform worse in training. Some follow every command without problems, but are worse at communication.

How does intelligence manifest itself in dogs and horses?

Many confuse intelligence in animals with education and obedience.

A four-legged friend that listens to every word and immediately obeys every command is considered more intelligent.

However, this is by far not always the case.

Whether it is a dog or a horse, obedience in many creatures says nothing about IQ, but can also be due to the so-called “will to please”.

Some animals are desperate to please their owners or are immediately motivated by treats and petting.

Others do not understand the meaning behind some commands, simply have no desire to do so or are very independent. This does not mean that they are less intelligent.
Intelligence test for horses – does it exist?

Yes, there are various intelligence tests for horses, which are also entertaining activities for your animal.

However, with these you can only find out if your horse is particularly curious, creative or hungry at the moment.

This only requires simple tools and you can detect learning effects if necessary.
What are the most intelligent horse breeds?

The following are considered to be particularly intelligent

American Saddlebred
English thoroughbred
Quarter Horse

Who is smarter – horse or dog?

There is no right answer to this question.

However, it is true for both species:

The more you spend time with your four-legged friend and the better you understand the species’ respective language, the smarter and happier you’ll both become.

Not to forget that the interaction with each other is important for the assessment.

You should also keep in mind that intelligence is not a deciding factor in keeping or always an advantage.

Particularly intelligent animals learn a lot by simply copying others and therefore often need several backups and can react very stubbornly.

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