Do Horses Feel Anger? Aggression in Horses



  • Horses can get angry and can also feel the anger of humans.
  • When a horse gets angry or threatened then its natural reaction is to lash out or run away.
  • Common triggers for anger in horses include pain, fear, and fatigue. If a horse is in pain or feels afraid, he may lash out in anger as a way to protect himself.
  • An angry horse pins his ears back or swishes his tail aggressively, stomps his feet or bunch up his muscles in preparation for a fight.

We all know what it feels like to get angry. That hot rush of blood to the head, the tightening of the chest, the clenched fists and teeth – anger is a universal emotion. But what about other animals? Do they experience anger in the same way that we do?

Scientists have found that many animals exhibit signs of anger, from primates to domestic dogs. But what about our equine friends? Do horses feel anger, and if so, how do they express it?

Let’s take a closer look.

Do Horses Feel Anger? Anger in Horses

Most of us have seen a horse get angry. We’ve seen them buck riders off, kick their stalls, and sometimes even bite or kick people. But what’s really going on when a horse gets angry? Is it the same kind of anger that we feel, or is it something else entirely?

Horses are loyal creatures who form strong bonds with both their herd mates and their human handlers. They are also highly attuned to their surroundings and are known for their intelligence and sensitivity. So it stands to reason that horses are capable of feeling and expressing anger.

To understand how horses experience anger, we first need to understand a bit about their evolutionary history.

Horses are descendants of wild ancient horses that lived on the steppes of Central Asia. These horses were constantly under threat from predators, so they needed to be able to defend themselves. They developed strong survival instincts and a herd mentality.

Angry horses may lash out or run away

When a horse gets angry, these ancient instincts are triggered. They feel threatened and their natural reaction is to lash out or run away. This is why you’ll often see horses spooking at seemingly innocuous things like plastic bags blowing in the wind. To them, it’s a predator and they need to get away from it.

Interestingly, research has shown that horses can also experience what’s known as “context-dependent aggression.” This means that they can get angry in response to specific stimuli, just like we do.

For example, if a horse is frequently scolded for being restless in its stall, it may start getting angry every time someone comes near it. This is because it associates the person with the negative experience of being scolded.

Angry Horse at Guard Changing Ceremony – Horses can feel Angry

Horses can also experience more generalized anger, similar to what we feel when we’re stressed out or overwhelmed. This usually happens when horses are in an environment that is not ideal for them, such as a crowded pasture or noisy stable.

In these situations, horses may start exhibiting signs of stress, such as pawing at the ground or sweating excessively. If the situation doesn’t improve, the horse may become increasingly agitated and may even lash out at other horses or people.

Can horses feel anger at other horses? Anger within Specie

Horses are social animals and they form strong bonds with their herd mates. However, this doesn’t mean that they always get along. Horses can and do get angry at each other, just like people do.

There are a number of reasons why horses may become angry with each other. For example, if one horse is constantly pushing its way to the front of the herd, the other horses may start to get angry. Or if one horse is constantly stealing food from another horse, that horse may become aggressive.

Horses can also become angry with each other if they’re not getting along for personality reasons. Just like people, some horses are naturally more compatible than others. If two horses are constantly bickering and fighting, it’s likely that they’re not a good match and will never be friends.

What Makes a Horse Angry? Causes of Anger in Horses

There are a number of things that can cause a horse to become angry.

One of the most common triggers is frustration. Horses are intelligent animals, and when they don’t understand what you’re asking of them, they can become frustrated. This frustration can quickly turn into anger.

Fear or threat triggers the anger in horses

Other common triggers for anger in horses include pain, fear, and fatigue. If a horse is in pain or feels afraid, he may lash out in anger as a way to protect himself.

And if a horse is tired from working too hard or has been pushed beyond his limits, he may also become angry as a way of telling you to back off.

How to tell if a horse is angry? Signs of Angry Horse

The easiest way to tell if a horse is experiencing true anger is by looking at his eyes. A horse who is angry will have wide, staring eyes with dilated pupils. His nostrils will be flared and he may be snorting or blowing hard through his nose.

One of the most common ways horses express anger is through aggression towards other horses or humans. This can take the form of biting, kicking or even rearing up. Another way horses express anger is by refusing to cooperate – for example, a horse might refuse to move forward or stop in the middle of a race.

Horses can also express anger through body language. A horse who is angry may pin his ears back or swish his tail aggressively. He may also stomp his feet or bunch up his muscles in preparation for a fight.

Signs of Anger in horses - Do horses feel anger

Of course, not all instances of aggression or negative body language necessarily indicate anger. Fear, pain, frustration, and even playfulness can all lead to similar behaviors.

If you see a horse with these signs, it’s best to give him some space – an angry horse is not thinking clearly and could pose a danger to himself or others.

Once he has calmed down, you can try to figure out what might have caused his outburst. Was he startled by a loud noise? Did someone invade his personal space? Was he teased or bullied by another horse? 

You should try to understand what triggered the anger. In this way, you can take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Can Horses Feel Anger of their Owners? Horses can Understand Us

Horses can form a strong emotional bond with their owners and have the ability to feel their anger.

Horses are very intuitive animals and they pick up on our emotions very easily. If we’re angry, they can sense it in our voice, our body language, and even our scent. And when they sense that we’re angry, they often become scared or nervous.

This is why it’s so important to stay calm and collected around horses. If we get angry, they can easily become frightened, which can lead to dangerous situations.

How to Prevent a Horse from Getting Angry? Measures

The best way to prevent a horse from getting angry is to understand what triggers his anger and then take steps to avoid those triggers.

The best way to prevent a horse from getting angry is to understand what triggers his anger and then take steps to avoid those triggers.

For example, if you know that your horse gets angry when he’s tired, make sure to give him plenty of breaks during long rides or training sessions. If your horse gets angry when he’s frustrated, take the time to train him patiently and clearly so that he understands what you’re asking of him.

Avoid the things that triggers anger in horses-Do horses feel anger

And if he gets angry when he’s in pain, make sure to have him checked out by a vet to ensure that there’s no underlying medical condition causing his discomfort.

Of course, it’s not always possible to avoid all of the triggers for a horse’s anger. But by being aware of them, you can be prepared to deal with an angry horse in a calm and collected manner.

Do horses feel angry during panic attacks?

Horses can definitely feel angry during panic attacks. When a horse is experiencing a panic attack, his heart rate and breathing increase, he may start to sweat, and he may become agitated or even aggressive. These are all signs of anger.

During a panic attack, a horse may lash out at people or other horses, or he may try to flee. Either way, it’s important to stay calm and collected around a horse who is having a panic attack.

If you can, try to remove any triggers for the panic attack (for example, if there’s a loud noise that’s upsetting him, move him away from it). And if he starts to become aggressive, make sure to keep yourself and other people safe by staying out of his way.


So do horses feel anger? It seems that they do. Their anger may not be exactly the same as ours, but it is similar in many ways.

While we may never fully understand what goes on inside a horse’s head, there’s no doubt that they are complex creatures capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions.

So the next time you see your horse acting out of character, take a step back and try to figure out what might be causing him to feel angry. With a little patience and understanding, you’ll be able to help him work through whatever is bothering him and get back to being his usual happy self again.


  1. Henry, S., Hemery, D., Richard, M. A., & Hausberger, M. (2005). Human–mare relationships and behaviour of foals toward humans. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 93(3-4), 341-362.
  2. McGreevy, P., Oddie, C., Burton, F. L., & McLean, A. N. (2009). The horse–human dyad: Can we align horse training and handling activities with the equid social ethogram?. The Veterinary Journal, 181(1), 12-18.
  3. Anthony, D. W. (2010). The horse, the wheel, and language. In The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. Princeton University Press.
  4. Krueger, K., Schneider, G., Flauger, B., & Heinze, J. (2015). Context-dependent third-party intervention in agonistic encounters of male Przewalski horses. Behavioural Processes, 121, 54-62.
  5. McGreevy, P., & McLean, A. (2005). Behavioural problems with. The domestic horse: The origins, development and management of its behaviour, 196.

Leave a Comment