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Horse Whiskers: What are They and Why do They Matter?

Have you ever paid much attention to your horse’s whiskers? While whiskers may seem to be just more hair on your horse’s body, the truth is that your horse’s whiskers are far different and more specialized than other hairs. In fact, these whiskers are a sensory organ in much the same way as whiskers are on a dog or a cat.

Longer and stiffer than typical hairs, your horse’s whiskers are contained within whisker follicles that are also deeper and larger than other hair follicles. Along with these follicles comes a richer blood supply as well as a connection to more nerves than is found with regular hairs. As a result, your horse’s whiskers are very sensitive to touch. In addition, each whisker sends a unique signal to the brain, which is then processed to stimulate the appropriate response. This response may be either voluntary or involuntary. 

Formally known as vibrissae, whiskers are also commonly referred to as “tactile hair” or “tactile vibrissae”. They can be found around the eyes as well as on your horse’s muzzle. In these locations, the whiskers help to protect delicate tissue while also helping to compensate for the blind spots your horse has under its nose. So, as you can see, whiskers are a very important part of your horse’s anatomy!

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