Horse Vocalizations: Why do Horses Neigh, Nicker, Whine, Snort? - Horsy Planet (2022)

So, the other day, I noticed my making a rather unusual sound… more like a whine as opposed to the usual neigh or nicker.

That’s when I really go to wondering about the different types of horse sounds and noises. So,I decided to research and what I discovered was amazing.

Why do horses neigh, nicker, whinny or snort? According to experts, horses make different sounds in order to communicate with other horses and their owners. The variety of sounds are an indication of differing emotions and thoughts. Horse vocalization is an example of social behavior.

Intrigued about why horses make such unique sounds? Read on to discover what they may be saying to you.

The Different Horse Vocalizations and Their Meanings

Horse Vocalizations: Why do Horses Neigh, Nicker, Whine, Snort? - Horsy Planet (1)

Experts believe that even though horses are social creatures, they do not like the idea of crying out in pain or discomfort.

Hence, they make a variety of sounds to communicate what it may be that is bothering them.

The reason why they don’t cry out is that in the equine world, crying out in pain is a sign of vulnerability. If you are a horse owner, then you might be confused about the meanings of the meaning of these horse sounds.

The thing about horses is that they are loyal, intelligent, and communicative beings that like to let their owners/trainers know what it is they are going through or feeling.

Since they can’t talk, they voice out what is bugging them through a variety of horse sounds.Experts and equine sound analysts have divided these horse sounds into a few broad expressions and noises.

These include:

  • Neighing
  • Whinny
  • Nicker
  • Snort
  • Sigh
  • Squeal
  • Blow
  • Grunt or groan
  • Scream

The above-mentioned sounds are the ones that you are most likely to hear from your horse. Keep in mind though that the voice of the horse may not always be an indication of communication with you.They may actually be talking to their buddies or even other farm animals.

(Video) HORSE SOUNDS FOR KIDS - Learn Neighing, Snorting and Galloping Sound Effects of Horses

Take a look at our in-depth article on how horses communicate with one another, and find more interesting facts on the topic.

Being able to tell what your horse is trying to communicate is not only going to improve your mutual relationship, but it would also help you in training your horse better.

Remember, being able to identify the correct horse sound with the correct interpretation is going to take you some time. But with some practice, you will be able to decipher just why your horse is making a neigh, a nicker or a snort!

Here is a detail on all the horse vocalizations.

Neigh or Whinny

This is the most basic noise that horses make.From early childhood, little children are taught that horses make neighing sounds. But rarely does anyone know what it means.

According to researchers, a horse neighs when they are either greeting someone or confirming a location. It is believed to be one of the longest sounds that a horse makes and can be heard as far as a quarter-mile!

Why do horses neigh? They do so for:

  • Communicating with a foal
  • Voicing out and greeting a fellow horse or their owner
  • Communicating their location to their herd
  • Calling other horses when they are lost

Why do Horses Nicker?

Horse Vocalizations: Why do Horses Neigh, Nicker, Whine, Snort? - Horsy Planet (2)

This guttural and low pitched sound is one that is produced when the horse is happy.

The nicker can be soft or rather loud depending on what emotion the horse wants to convey.

Even though a nicker is mostly directed towards other horses, it can also be a sign of endearment towards humans as well.

(Video) horse neighing

A horse nickers when it:

  • Sees its favourite food
  • Wants to express love for its horse or human buddy
  • Wants to show positive engagement
  • Calls out for courtship

Snort

People mostly believe that a snort of a horse is a negative sound and something that should be feared. Actually, a snort is a sound the horse makes in anticipation or excitement and is strongly related to positive emotions.

A horse makes the snorting sound by quickly exhaling through his nostrils. The snort can easily be heard up to 30 feet away.

Keep in mind though, if the horse snorts with a raised head and tail, then make sure you check if it’s feeling comfortable.

Need some tips on providing comfort to your horse? Here’s an article on how you can take care of your horse.

When you hear a horse snort, be sure to give them your complete, undivided attention to see what it’s trying to express.

Sigh

A sigh is a soft, deep breath that the horse lets audibly out either from its mouth or nostrils.

When a horse sighs, it means that it’s feeling relieved after something that had been bothering it.

There are some horses that sigh when they are bored and feel the need to get out of their current space.

Horses often sigh if they are massaged as it helps in releasing tension from the horse’s body.

So, if you hear your horse sigh, then it means you are doing something right to help it feel better about its current situation.

The Meaning of a Horse Squeal

Mostly a horse squeals when he is agitated or upset.

It is generally a sign of aggression and shows that the horse wants you to calm them or remove the source of discomfort.The squeal can be long or short depending on what it is the horse is bothered about.

(Video) Whinny'ing horse

When a horse squeals, it is trying to say:

  • Don’t push me
  • I don’t want to
  • This upsets me

Does your horse often bite in anger? Here’s the ultimate guide on how you can stop your horse from biting.

If you hear a loud squeal from the horse, then you will need to make sure that the horse is distanced from whatever is making it anxious or aggressive.

Grunt or Groan

Depending on what situation the horse is in, a grunt or groan can refer to either pain or contentment.

Now, how can you tell the difference?Simply check up on the horse to ensure that it hasn’t hurt itself.

If a horse grunts or groans when training, it could mean they might have injured themselves and you would need to give them medical assistance.

Colicky horses also make groaning noises.

If a horse grunts while on its way back to the stable after a long day of work, it could signal its anticipation for a massage or bath that would help it relax.

Scream

A scream is one of the most painful or scary sounds that a horse can make.

It is a clear indication of either extreme pain or extreme anger. Most domesticized horses do not scream but if they are doing so, they’re certainly in major discomfort.

(Video) Horse Sounds - Horses Neighing

A horse rarely ever screams even while fighting with another horse. But it might scream if it’s hurt really bad.

So, now that you know what the horse sounds are all about, do you plan to listen more carefully and respond?

The horse will learn to trust you when you respond well to its communication and will make your ride a lot easier.

What’s more, the two of you will be able to develop a bond that surpasses that of master-trainee and become friends in the truest of sense.

Therefore, the next time you are around your horse, listen carefully to see what exactly it’s trying to communicate to you.

Trust me, being able to ‘talk’ to your horse is going to work wonders for you!

Horse Vocalizations: Why do Horses Neigh, Nicker, Whine, Snort? - Horsy Planet (3)

So, you read our horse vocalization guide but still have some questions?

In this section, we’ll be answering all of the most commonly asked questions about horse sounds.

What sounds do horses make when they are happy?

When horses are happy or content, they generally neigh. A neighing horse may also be saying “hello” to other horses.But mostly, a soft and quiet neigh shows that your horse is feeling relaxed and happy.

When do horses nicker?

Horses nicker when they are addressing or welcoming you. Generally, a nicker is accompanied by a soft nudge from the horse’s nose.

Keep in mind though, that a soft nicker is associated with greeting. But if it changes to a squeal, then it might be indicating isolation and anxiety.

How do you know if a horse likes you?

These are a few signs that your horse likes you:

(Video) Horse Sounds for children (neighing, Whinying, Snorting) With Video And Pictures

  • Soft snorting signs or breathing through the nostrils when you’re around. This is a clear indication that the horse is happy around you.
  • The nostrils of a horse also indicate its temperament. If they are relaxed around you, then it might indicate that your horse likes you.
  • A relaxed, soft lip line is another clear sign of a horse being happy around its owner.
  • A smiling or dribbling horse is one who likes you and wants to hang out with you.

FAQs

Why does a horse nicker? ›

A horse nicker is like a call for attention. Nickering usually happens when a stallion is trying to get the attention of a mare when it is time to mate. Also, mares tend to nicker at their foals when they wander too far away.

Why do horses vocalize? ›

They may neigh to communicate anxiety or confidence. Horses also neigh to locate other horses. Finally, many horses neigh to greet their owner or other horses. Neighing is just one of many equine vocalizations that horses use to communicate their feelings.

Why do horses neigh and whinny? ›

Lynn Bird, a behaviourist based in Cheshire, adds several more reasons why horses whinny. “Horses generally neigh to attract attention of other horses or of people.” She adds that it can also be “a sign of separation anxiety or a sign of social isolation.

Why do horses neigh a lot? ›

Frustration and Nerves. Some horses also whinny when they're feeling frustrated, nervous and perhaps even lonely. If your horse is feeling on edge about being away from others, he may emit rather piercing neighs constantly. Apart from just whinnying, he may express his tension also by giving off some loud screams.

Why does horse snort? ›

The horses mainly snorted during calm and relaxing activities, and those that spent more time out of doors snorted the most, the study found. When a horse was snorting, the researchers also recorded the animal's ear position; forward-pointing ears are a known signal of a positive internal state, Ms. Stomp said.

What sound is a horse nicker? ›

Nicker. The nicker is a soft, gentle sound that your horse makes with his vocal cords, but with his mouth closed.

Do horses whinny or neigh? ›

Whinny is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it's the sound a horse makes. As a verb, it's the horse making the sound. A familiar word with the same meaning as whinny is neigh.

What's the difference between neigh and whinny? ›

Senior Member. I know little about horses but, to me (BE), "whinny" is the higher pitched sound that horses make (cf - to whine) and the neigh is the lower pitched sound. Neigh is common enough.

Do all horses nicker? ›

Horses can make a number of different sounds to communicate different things – they can whinny, nicker, squeal, blow, snort, grunt and groan.

What noise do horses make when they are happy? ›

Nickering. Of all horse sounds, a nicker is generally a joy to hear! A nicker is a sociable sound that your horse will make with their mouth closed, moving their nostrils with their ears pricked forward to attention. It is an affectionate sound that horses will use with their peers.

What does it mean when a horse is sound? ›

The term soundness or "a sound horse" does not refer to a horse's whinny—it actually refers to the overall health of the animal. A sound horse is one that has no lameness or illness. When purchasing a horse, it is a good idea to have a veterinarian check the animal's soundness.

What does it mean when a horse licks you? ›

One way horses often show affection is by licking. When a horse licks you, it usually means that it likes or trusts you. Horses also lick people as a sign of submission. If a horse licks you while you are grooming or riding it, it is probably trying to show you that it trusts and respects you.

Why do horses look at me? ›

Why? Because horse's an extremely observant animal and they study their surroundings. If you're in their surroundings they are studying you too. If they see you looking at them in the eye it sends a message to them about who is in control.

Why do horses make grunting noises? ›

Horses that grunt or groan when they breathe are usually responding to pain. When the diaphragm and ribcage move with each breath, this stretches or moves an injured area, stimulating pain receptors.

Why does my horse purr? ›

a soft, low, breathy whinny. What it is: The soft purring sound your horse makes implies “Come to me.” It can also mean “Look at me” when a stallion is showing off to a mare. What it Means: It's most purposeful between a mare and foal; if the foal wanders off, the mare will nicker to the youngster to call him back.

Why do horses sneeze? ›

Sneezing and blowing is a common behavior and is often an indicator of pleasure in horses. Blowing, snorting or sneezing is also a natural response to an irritant (usually dust or plant material) in contact with the sensitive membranes of the nasal passages.

Why does my horse sniff my face? ›

Affection. Another reason horses put their noses in your face is to show affection. Horses show affection for one another by gently blowing into each other's nostrils, and your horse may be trying to show affection for you as if you were another horse.

What is the difference between a whinny and a nicker? ›

A nicker is a whisper. A whinny is normal speech. A neigh is a shout.

What's a horse say? ›

Animal Sounds - Horse - YouTube

How do you call a horse? ›

synonyms for horse
  1. colt.
  2. filly.
  3. mare.
  4. stallion.
  5. bronco.
  6. foal.
  7. gelding.
  8. mustang.

How do horses communicate with sound? ›

A recent study revealed that horses pass on information by using their large ears. They also make use of their vocal repertoire like squeals, snorts, blows, and neighs to connect with each other. So, if you are a horse owner, it will be helpful for you to understand all the horse communication sounds and methods.

How do horses greet each other? ›

Nickering is a soft sound made when horses greet one another. They make it by keeping their lips pressed together while simultaneously using their vocal chords. It's a sound that means, "Hello! I'm happy to see you!" When horses nicker with happiness, they have an alert expression on their faces.

How do you pronounce whinny horse? ›

How To Say Whinny - YouTube

What is the House of horse called? ›

A stable is a building that is subdivided into separate stalls for individual animals and livestock.

Do horses growl? ›

Researchers involved in the University of Sussex study used 28 horses from two riding schools in East Sussex, exposing each of them to eight recorded human non-verbal emotional vocalisations. They comprised two males and two females laughing, and two males and two females growling.

Do horses whinny when happy? ›

As a rough guide, if you hear a horse give a short, low sounding whinny they're expressing contentment, while a higher whinny that lasts longer is likely to express worry or discomfort.

What is it called when a horse blows through its lips? ›

We call it a lip-trill. Follow this answer to receive notifications.

What is a male horse called? ›

…male horse is called a stallion, the female a mare. A stallion used for breeding is known as a stud. A castrated stallion is commonly called a gelding. Formerly, stallions were employed as riding horses, while mares were kept for breeding purposes only.

Why do horses nod their heads? ›

Horses nod their heads as a signal of energy, excitement, or irritation. They also nod when bothered by ear infections and insects. Horses that lower and raise their heads in a calm, controlled manner may be showing a sign of submission to convey a simple hello.

How old can a horse live? ›

Why does my horse squeal at me? ›

Like all four audible communications, squealing has a very specific meaning and it means 'aggression is about to ensue'. In other words, it means, “I'm about to kick your butt!” Sometimes it's a just a threat and sometimes the horse will take action.

Can you bond with a horse? ›

The more time you have to get to know the horse and spend time with them, the quicker you'll probably be able to bond with them. However; if you're working with a horse that is particularly stubborn or that has an abusive past, it may take more time.

Why does my horse snort like a dragon? ›

Other horse behavior experts say that snorting doesn't mean anything — the horses are just clearing their noses or responding to itchiness and discomfort, just like we humans do. Still, others say that snorting can be a consequence of negative emotions.

How do horses cry? ›

Horses don't cry as an emotional response, but they shed tears when their tear ducts are blocked. However, horses express emotions with their actions; for example, they pen their ears when mad, and yes, horses miss you when you are away from them. Many people believe horses cry because they shed tears.

What does not sound mean with horses? ›

Unlike other farm animals, the horse is serviceable only when in motion. Any abnormal deviation in the structure or action of a horse can render it partly or completely useless. Therefore, any defect that affects serviceability is considered an unsoundness, i.e., lameness, blindness, faulty wind, etc.

What does it mean when a horse turns his back on you? ›

Fear and Aggression as reasons for turning hindquarters toward you can be pain related so rule that out. Keep a halter and lead on the horse whenever you are working with the horse and practice disengaging the hindquarters. This will teach the horse to move away from you and face you.

Do horses have a favorite person? ›

Horses exhibit higher heart rates when separated from a human, but don't show any preference for their owners over complete strangers, the team discovered.

What does it mean when a horse nudges you with his nose? ›

Horses can nudge you with their nose for a variety of reasons. The key reasons are likely to be: pushing you out of the way, encouraging you to give them treats, rudeness, itching, and affection. Sometimes it just genuinely means they want to play.

Why shouldn't you look a horse in the eye? ›

Never look a horse in the eye

You're only a predator if you intend to eat what you're looking at. Horses can easily tell the difference between a predator looking to eat and predator looking in curiosity and wonder. Horses do, however, struggle to understand the intention of a human who hides his eyes.

Should you look at a horse in the eye? ›

Take home message

Far from avoiding looking a horse in the eye you should be actively making eye contact with them. It will help to build a bond with the horse but will also work to demonstrate to the horse that you're on their side and can understand and work with them.

Should you avoid eye contact with a horse? ›

Other trainers indicate hard contact is preferred to establish your dominance over the herd. And then other trainers say you should avoid direct eye contact altogether as this will frighten the horse because it will make them think you are stalking them.

What sounds do horses like? ›

Horse Sounds And Meanings - YouTube

What sound does a horse make when angry? ›

Squealing and roaring

A high-pitched, piercing squeal is also heard from horses in some situations. It can be a sign of anger and exuberance, but it can also be a warning.

How do you train a horse to come to you? ›

How To Teach A Horse To Come When Called - YouTube

Should I feed my horse before or after riding? ›

Don't feed immediately before or after exercise

Ideally, you should wait an hour or so after your horse has finished a meal before riding them. If you're going to do something really strenuous, it should be closer to three hours.

Why do animals snort? ›

Snorting is similar to a sneeze in that it expels air out of the mouth and nose. But unlike a sneeze, snorts are done on purpose. Snorting dogs or cats are often reacting to something that is irritating their nose, like an allergen or a bit of dirt. It can also be caused by a virus or sinus infection.

Can horses vomit? ›

Horses can't vomit because they possess a valve at the entrance of the stomach called cardias or " Swiss tie ", the muscles of this valve are so strong that they prevent food from returning to the mouth.

Why is my horse shaking his head? ›

Some horses are extremely sensitive to strong sunlight. Exposure to bright light causes a nerve in the head to send a shock-like sensation to the horse's face, and he reacts by violently flinging his head up and back. This type of head shaking is typically worst in the summer but is also seen on bright winter days.

Do horses like kisses? ›

Horses don't think like we do—especially when it comes to bonding and showing affection. Human affection behaviors—such as kissing on the lips—don't hold the same meaning for horses. We humans are drawn to the head of the horse, especially that sweet, velvety-soft muzzle.

Do horses like to be hugged? ›

As I say though, most horses prefer to be hugged around the neck, withers, and shoulders but some are also happy for small children to hug their front legs if they're unable to reach their necks. Some horses are also happy for you to cuddle their heads while others don't feel comfortable with people being that close.

Do horses get sad when they are sold? ›

It really depends. They may show signs of sadness, much like when they leave a favorite herd mate. On the other hand, if you weren't that close they will likely have no emotional response to being sold. If they do appear sad, it's only time before they get comfortable in their new home and let go of those feelings.

How do you know if a horse is happy? ›

Signs Your Horse is Happy
  1. Nostrils. Your horse's nostrils are soft, round, and relaxed and breathing is even on both sides.
  2. Tail. Your horse's tail will swing freely, evenly, and loosely when happy and relaxed.
  3. Lower Jaw. ...
  4. Rearing or Pawing. ...
  5. Licking and Chewing. ...
  6. Yawning. ...
  7. Snorting. ...
  8. Mutual Grooming.

Do all horses nicker? ›

Horses can make a number of different sounds to communicate different things – they can whinny, nicker, squeal, blow, snort, grunt and groan.

What does it mean when a horse squeals? ›

When horses squeal, it is usually a warning of horse-on-horse violence. What it Means: A mare will squeal to repel the advances of a stallion, but it may also indicate two horses meeting for the first time. They will sniff one another, then one will squeal as a threat of aggression.

What does it mean when a horse nudges you with its head? ›

Horses can nudge you with their nose for a variety of reasons. The key reasons are likely to be: pushing you out of the way, encouraging you to give them treats, rudeness, itching, and affection. Sometimes it just genuinely means they want to play.

What should you not do with a horse? ›

Never stand directly in front of your horse when leading or backing. Horses cannot see directly in front of them or behind them. Stand to the “near side" (left side) of the horse, between the head and shoulder, ideally at the throat latch. Standing behind a horse is also unsafe, as they have a blind spot there as well.

What does it mean when a horse looks you in the eye? ›

Why? Because horse's an extremely observant animal and they study their surroundings. If you're in their surroundings they are studying you too. If they see you looking at them in the eye it sends a message to them about who is in control.

Do horses have a favorite person? ›

Horses exhibit higher heart rates when separated from a human, but don't show any preference for their owners over complete strangers, the team discovered.

Do horses like to be hugged? ›

As I say though, most horses prefer to be hugged around the neck, withers, and shoulders but some are also happy for small children to hug their front legs if they're unable to reach their necks. Some horses are also happy for you to cuddle their heads while others don't feel comfortable with people being that close.

What does it mean when a horse stomps one foot? ›

Horses stomp to indicate irritation. Usually, it's something minor, such as a fly they're trying to dislodge. However, stomping may also indicate your horse is frustrated with something you are doing, and if you don't address it, he may resort to stronger signals.

What is a male horse called? ›

…male horse is called a stallion, the female a mare. A stallion used for breeding is known as a stud. A castrated stallion is commonly called a gelding. Formerly, stallions were employed as riding horses, while mares were kept for breeding purposes only.

What does it mean when a horse blows in your face? ›

Affection. Another reason horses put their noses in your face is to show affection. Horses show affection for one another by gently blowing into each other's nostrils, and your horse may be trying to show affection for you as if you were another horse.

Do horses purr? ›

When your horse inhales quickly, then puffs the breath out through his nostrils so they vibrate with a loud purring sound, he's excited and hoping that something will happen.

Why does my horse snort like a dragon? ›

Other horse behavior experts say that snorting doesn't mean anything — the horses are just clearing their noses or responding to itchiness and discomfort, just like we humans do. Still, others say that snorting can be a consequence of negative emotions.

What sound does a horse make when angry? ›

You can use neigh to talk about the noise your horse makes, also known as a whinny or a bray. Neigh is also a verb: horses neigh cheerfully or in frustration, and your little brother might like to ride a broomstick wildly around the house and neigh.

What is the difference between a whinny and a nicker? ›

A nicker is a whisper. A whinny is normal speech. A neigh is a shout.

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