How Ponies See Shapes

Horse Eye
A study reveals that horses see shapes much the same way that humans do.Péter Klagyivik/Hemera/Thinkstock

A recent study, led by Kyoto University’s Masaki Tomonaga, revealed that how ponies see shapes is very similar to how chimpanzees, dolphins and even humans see shapes. For the study, three ponies named Thomas, Ponyo and Nemo were tested with touchscreens. According to, the “ponies were shown two shapes on the touchscreen, one of which the researchers arbitrarily decided was correct. The ponies received a carrot piece as a reward when they tapped their muzzle on the ‘right’ answer.”

Tomonaga and his team then compared the ponies’ results with other studies on humans, chimpanzees and dolphins. The implication was that all of these mammals saw shapes in a similar way.

“Mammals have adapted to a variety of natural environments, ranging from underwater to land to tree canopies. They also rely on vision to varying extents. Humans, for instance, live on land and rely heavily on their sense of vision. On the other hand, other mammals like horses have evolved to have a wide visual field, but with less acuity than ours—we wanted to investigate what it was that other mammals were seeing,” Tomonaga told “It’s remarkable that mammals, even with these differences in physical appearance and living environments, evolved to have the same sort of visual perception.”

The researchers are now planning on looking into how the ponies interpret the shapes they’re looking at.

The study was published in Biology Letters. To read it in its entirety, visit The Royal Society website.

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