The newest book in the Scientists in the Field Series, Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg, is sure to inspire older children to become scientists, especially if they are interested in horses. It follows biologists as they try to figure out the best ways to study and manage horses in the wild. Remarkably, very little was known about wild horses until the last few decades.
Note: this book is recommended for ages 10 and up at Amazon, but I would say ages 12 and up. Be aware up front that it contains photographs of dead, decaying horses and discusses birth control methods. It is not a picture book! For a full review of the book, see our sister blog, Wrapped In Foil.
Horse Science Activities:
1. Horse Coat Color
One of the first tasks when studying horses is to learn the names of all their coat colors so you can communicate accurately with other horse scientists. Coat color in horses is controlled by several genes, resulting in over twenty different combinations.
Do you know your horse colors? Pick out the bay, palomino, chestnut, and pinto from the photographs below. Here is a poster of horse coat colors (click to enlarge) to help.
A. What color is this reddish-brown horse?
B. What about a red-brown horse with black lower legs, mane and tail?
C. What is the name of the color of this flashy horse? (Notice it has blue eyes instead of brown).
D. What about this yellow one hiding behind the thistle?
- A. Chestnut
- B. Bay
- C. Pinto
- D. Palomino
Some people, sometimes even horse people, might call C. a paint, but technically it is a pinto because it doesn't have any quarter horse bloodlines. Only horses that have quarter horse (or thoroughbred) breeding are called paints when they have extensive white markings.
Older children might want to investigate the genetics of horse coat color. Jennifer Hoffman has a very cool interactive lesson to explore horse coat color genetics.
2. Horse Anatomy
Being domesticated animals, we have developed and extensive vocabulary to name the parts of the horse.
See if you can fill in the names of the parts of the horse below.
3. Horse Behavior
Although horses can't talk, you can tell what is going on with them by watching their movements.
This video explains some of the basics, such as what the positions of the ears and tail mean, as well as the fact that horses can not see directly behind themselves. Always avoid approaching a horse from the rear or near their tail because you will be in their blind spot.
4. Horse Senses: Vision
Ever wondered how scientists study things like what an animal can see? Check out the photos of vision research using choice tests with horses (scroll down to see photographs of research in action).
Using a choice test technique, the scientists were able to determine that horses can see certain colors, but their vision is similar to a human with red/green colorblindness.
Although scientists are starting to learn more about horses, there are still a lot of questions.
And, don't forget Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg has a lot more information about wild horses and the scientists who study them.
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (November 6, 2012)
(The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.) Cover courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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