Horses are by nature predisposed to the flight reaction. These prey animals have evolved to survive the advances of a variety of predators throughout history. And while domestication has tempered these traits, they react similarly towards predators in this same day and age. There are a few exceptions, of course.
Most notably the horse’s ability to form a relationship with humans. But what about their strange interactions with predators of a less likely type? The bond between equine and feline comrades is a psychologically defying form of unusual attraction.
The domestication of both our equine and feline partners has surely assuaged their relationship to some degree. Epimeletic behavior is what scientists have deemed the self and mutual grooming behavior of equids within a herd, according to EquiMed. It is most commonly performed between female members of similar social standing and accomplished with parallel over-the-neck movement of the lips across each other’s withers. While it is thought to have been a behavior originally developed to reduce parasites, it is now proven to be a stress-reducing activity for horses. It is even suggested that mutual grooming releases endorphins.
While humans have been able to form relationships with these flight animals over time due to persistent necessity, there are not many other species in the predator kingdom that horses have historically accepted. Humans have even gone as far as to mimic the epimeletic behavior in equines with the now commonplace occurrence of 'grooming' via brushing. This development may have even contributed to the ease of evolution between the two.
Due to concurrent domestication of cats and dogs, horses have been forced to coexist alongside these predators in both indoor and outdoor environments. It is safe to say that the species have adjusted to one another over time. But for domestication to have reached the point where equine prey now groom the descendants of their previous big-cat hunters? That is an evolution all of its own, and speaks volumes about the capacity of the equine mind. Watch the unbelievable video below of a horse grooming her feline companion.