Sunday, July 26, 2015

How animals grieve

Harv with a buddy from long ago
I was researching squirrels last week in our library. Why? Well that is kind of a long story, but while I was in the stacks I ran across a book on the shelf, How Animals Grieve. I can't say it was a great book -- more anecdotal than scientific -- but there was a chapter on horses. The author referenced an article, one that I could not find online, but I found reference to it in this article by the same author: Managing grief responses: Bereavement could deteriorate the health of your horses.

This vet certainly thinks horses have the capacity to grieve and I don't think it is much of a stretch to imagine animals having emotions similar to humans. How different can it be from separation anxiety that we witness all of the time in the equine world? I have seen Harvey recognize his equine buddies after many years. Horses can have friends, human and equine. I know Harv knows me, and looks to me for security in new situations. I can see, have seen, horses looking for their buddy in the pasture, and have seen horses call for their owners when they hear their car in the driveway.  One of the few prerequisites for missing someone is wanting to have them around.

If you believe this, then feeling grief strikes me as very much in the realm of equine feelings. At the same time, the article suggests that horses are animals who live in the moment. Unlike humans, and maybe other animals like dogs, they can accept and move on fairly quickly. I don't think this means they don't really care that much -- I just think that is the way they're wired.

Just musing here. What do you all think?

1 comment:

  1. When Steele died suddenly Irish definitely was grieving. He ran the fence line for a day, which was most likely agitation at being alone. but after that he just wilted. He spent his time standing with his head down and dull look in his eye for hours. He stood like that in two places: by the barn and down by Steele's grave (Steele was buried just outside the lower corner). We brought in a companion and it perked him up. I do believe that animals 'move on' and perhaps fairly quickly but that also seems to me to be a good survival characteristic.


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