Hair Reveals Horse Temperament

A whorl of hair can tell you something about a horse's temperament, according to equine scientists in Poland. They've concluded that the location and shape of a hair swirl lying near a horse's eyes is linked with how the horse responds to handling and to new objects.

The study was with Konik horses, some of which were reared in stables, while others roamed free in a forest reserve. Four types of facial whorls existed among the horses. The whorls were classified based on their location relative to the horse's eyes. One type of whorl was an elongated or double swirl of facial hair rather than a single circle.

two foals with different facial hair patterns

The position of hair whorl near their eyes indicates the foal on the left will be easier to handle than the foal on the right.

The various whorls became distinguished in two test situations. Horses with a single whorl located above the eyes were the most difficult to handle. In comparison, horses with a single whorl situated below or directly between their eyes were easier to manage.

Horses with an elongated or double hair whorl were the most cautious of the groups in approaching a strange object. They took much longer than the single-whorled horses to approach and touch something new.

Situations also arose where the whorl pattern and position had no connection with a horse's behavior. For one, whorls had no bearing on a horse's startle reaction to a strange object suddenly appearing before them. The study also did not find any difference in heart rate and increases in heart rate among the groups.


Aleksandra Górecka, Malgorzata Golonka, Michal Chruszczewski and Tadeusz Jezierski. 2007. A note on behaviour and heart rate in horses differing in facial hair whorl. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 105(1-3): 244-248.

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