Exploring the Important Role of Whiskers on Your Horse
As a sensory organ for your horse, whiskers help your beloved equine friend with experiencing, exploring and reacting to the world around it. By sending unique signals to the brain, your horse uses its whiskers for all of the following:
- Protecting delicate tissues, such as stimulating your horse to blink in order to protect its eyes or to move its face in order to protect its lips and nose.
- Evaluating objects in order to determine texture, shape, temperature, movement and distance.
- Finding and evaluating food, whether grazing or eating out of a feeder, bucket or hay net.
- Interacting with other horses or with humans or other animals.
In newborn foals, it is also believed that the whiskers help the foal with finding its mother’s teats so it can feed. This is likely the reason why foals are born with longer whiskers than adult horses. Interestingly, the whiskers are also the first hair to form during embryonic development. In addition, while whiskers do shed, they do not follow seasonal patterns like other hairs. Rather, they have a growth cycle during which they emerge, mature and then shed naturally as they are replaced by new whiskers. The long hairs that grow underneath the horse’s jaw are different from true whiskers, however, and are simply long hairs.