It’s a question that has always bothered me, given the fact that horses have been kept as stock for at least a millennium. The answer has always been that if horses were a human race, they would never have developed an oral language.
Although horses are a horse, their mouths are not quite as large as our own, and their gums are quite different from ours. And yet, horses can communicate with each other in a manner of speaking that’s similar to how it’s spoken by humans (or, if you’re really into the whole ‘gum tongue thing’, how it’s spoken by dogs).
And yet, they often don’t even know the words to their own names.
For instance, a racehorse called Ayrton, which is owned by the British government, and whose tongue was tied when it was an adult horse at one point in its life, didn’t know the words to his own name. But even if it had, that certainly wouldn’t explain why he never used it when speaking with another horse owner at the racecourse, or why one or more of the horses knew his name.
The best explanation is that they have the ability to communicate in that way because they can’t speak with their mouths, and therefore have to communicate with their eyes, which aren’t quite as big as ours – and as their gums are quite similar to ours. But this is not the complete reason – in this way they can also communicate with us.
To better understand this phenomenon, you have to take into account the size of their tongues themselves, as well as the different types of words they can use to describe themselves.
Size of the tongue
The size of a horse’s tongue depends on its stage of life. As soon as horse, which is a member of the horse family, gains its first pair of gums, its tongue becomes larger than our own, from about 5cm to about 6cm (1in to 1.2in).
After that, even after reaching their third pair of gums, the size slows down, from around 4-5cm to about 4-5.5cm. However, it’s this last bit which means that by the time horses are two-thirds grown, they have no trouble in using their own tongue to refer to themselves.
These tongue-related findings help in understanding the reason behind the strange situation of Ayrton or one of his descendants who was kept as a stock horse. They
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