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Enjoy solving this online jigsaw puzzle of an amazing picture of two horses greeting each other as they meet for the very first time in a field. It looks like this could be the dawning of a new friendship!
The horse is a typical herd animal and, has a distinctive body language that it uses for communication among its fellow animals. The ears can be pointed in all directions. Directed forwards, like the two horses in our online jigsaw puzzle, indicates that the horse is showing attention and curiosity. If they are pointed to the back of the head, it is a warning and signals aggression or fear, although if pointed straight back during a horse race it can sometimes simply be a sign that the horse is paying attention to its rider, with those ears pointing in the rider's direction. If the ears hang floppily to the side, this is either a sign of unease, tiredness, submission or relaxation. Floppy ears, whilst the horse's eyes are also half closed, can be a sign of satisfaction.
Herd sizes range from 3 to around 35 animals. Within the group a clear hierarchy exists. If the structure of the group changes, for example if a new animal joins or one leaves, the order of rank is reviewed. This mostly happens by body signals like threatening gestures, but also bites and hoofsteps if necessary. Also watching the interactions between other group members can lead to a change of the rank order of the observing animal. Moreover, the order of rank can be reviewed by adolescent animals who change their position in the herd as they grow up. Young foals from a low-ranking mare also themselves take a low order of rank, whereas the young animals of a high-ranking mare also have better prospects of attain a high rank position.
A herd can consist of several mares and their foals as well as a stallion, with bigger groups sometimes having several stallions. The stallion is an imposing, strong animal. He is responsible for the protection of his herd from before predators and for passing on his own genes. When escaping from predators, different mares run at the head of the herd and the stallion runs behind the herd to drive forward any horses who are lagging behind.
As a rule mares stay together in a group. Young stallions when they reach maturity are are expelled from the herd by the alpha male (the strongest stallion) and then form federations with other young males. In these they test their strengths against each other so that one day they may conquer their own herd by provoking the leading stallion to a fight and defeating him.
Single or several mares from an existing group sometimes leave of their own free will, and join with other groups. Other times they may team up with a younger stallion and form a new group with him.
As a steppe inhabitant the horse is a flight animal whose first instinct at the presence of danger is to run and make a quick escape.
Horses gave been domesticated throughout the world and in most cases adapt themselves easily to living in a in a group which has been artificially created by humans. Stallions can however cause difficulties because of their strong desires to get frisky with the mares, and also sometimes because of hormone-conditioned aggressiveness. If the stallion smells a mare who he thinks will be in a responsive mood, he will usually try everything to reach to. If separated by just a fence or a stable division they can often injure themselves in their desire to get to a female. Therefore, they are mostly kept in their own separated field or stables apart from the mares.
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Thanks to Deb Nystrom for the use of the amazing picture of her horse, Cherokee on the right, meeting up with a new friend in this online jigsaw puzzle.
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