Could you please tell me why horses stamp their hind feet? Why do horses bite, kick and rear so much? Azula consults with ASPCA experts to tackle your toughest questions.
Why do horses have such big nostrils?
The better to smell you with?! Well, not exactly. But, horses have huge nostrils on their big, beautiful noses because they need to suck in large amounts of air when they run.
A horse's nostrils are sort of like scoops on a turbocharged engine. Think about that the next time you prepare for the 100-yard dash in gym class!
Why do people slaughter horses?
I know it’s hard to think about, but people slaughter horses for their meat, Tiffany. It’s very unusual for people in the United States to eat horse meat, so this might seem really gross to you—but remember that diets vary widely all over the world. Lots of people in Europe and Asia regularly eat horses. Americans think it’s strange to eat horses, but that’s a cultural belief. Did you know that people of the Hindu faith believe it’s strange to eat cows? There are 900 million Hindus in the world, and only 300 million Americans. So a lot of people think that what many Americans eat is weird, too.
Surveys show that most people who live in the United States are against slaughtering horses. America has a special fondness for horses. They helped our nation grow, and we love them as pets. Because we don’t eat horses, there are no longer any horse slaughterhouses in our country. However, horses are still being taken from the United States to our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, to be slaughtered there. Right now, there is a bill before the United States Congress that would make this illegal, too. It’s called the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. If you feel strongly about protecting horses, you can find out how to write a letter to Congress and ask lawmakers to protect horses by passing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.
Do horses need their teeth brushed?
Well, I went to straight to the horse's mouth for the answer to this one, Stephanie! I asked veterinarian Dr. Andrew Lang, former director of the ASPCA's Equine Program (FYI, "equine" means horse), and he thought it was a really interesting question. "No one actually brushes their horse's teeth," he explained, "but caring for them is extremely important."
An equine's teeth (see, that new word you just learned has already come in handy!) are constantly growing, very slowly, all the time. "They would get longer and longer if they didn't get worn down by a lot of chewing on rough foods like hay," said Dr. Lang. But a horse's upper and lower teeth don't always fit together exactly, and sharp edges can form (ouch!) that hurt the horse's mouth. So every year or so, a veterinarian has to gently grind down these sharp points and edges. This is called "floating" the teeth—although has absolutely nothing do with a plastic raft or a swimming pool!—and actually looks a lot like brushing.
Azula is on vacation this month! But before she left, she handed the reins over to Dr. Emily Weiss, the ASPCA’s horse behavior expert.
Here are the answers to some of your questions.
Why do horses see from the side?
That's a very interesting question, Sarah—and there's a very good reason that a horse's eyes are on the side of his head. This placement gives him great peripheral vision (peripheral means "around the sides"), so he can see almost all the way around! In the wild, this enables him to see danger coming from any direction and, if he needs to, make a fast escape.
Why do horses sleep standing up?
Because king-size beds won't fit in their stalls?!
Just kidding, Jessica. Basically, horses sleep standing up because they can! Their back legs can "lock" into position so that standing for a long time takes very little effort and doesn't use up much energy. They don't sleep very deeply this way, but horses, unlike you humans, don't seem to need much deep sleep. When they want a super-duper major snooze, though, they will lie down
Do you guys love horses or what?! We know you do, because Azula has been getting a ton of emails!
Special Horse Q & A with Dr. Weiss.