Exploring olfaction in Equids

Ever wondered what a horse can smell? If it can detect the same odours as we humans? Or if mares, stallions and geldings differ in their olfactory interests and abilities? And what about pregnancy? They say pregnant women change in their olfactory abilities and preferences as gestation develops. These are the questions we set out to answer in this project.

Olfaction is almost entirely unexplored in equids and hence this project is pioneering yet only scratching the surface of the topic.

In this project we develop a test to explore olfaction in horses. The test situation will be adapted to horses’ natural behaviour and we will test 4 different odours. Additionally, the project seeks to explore effects of sex, age and pregnancy on level of interest in the four odours.

More information about the current knowledge of olfaction in horses see our review paper:

Update: The projected was carried out on Icelandic horses in the spring of 2021.

The results are published in Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience July 2022, and the open access paper can be found here.

Full citation:

Rørvang, M. V., Nicova, K., Yngvesson, J. 2022. Horse odor exploration behavior is influenced by pregnancy and age. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience, 16:941517.
doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2022.941517

Thanks to all horses involved and to the horse owners for their participation.

  • Project leader: Maria Vilain Rørvang, Mariav.Rorvang@slu.se
  • Project participant: Jenny Yngvesson
  • Project participant: Klára Ničová
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