Friday, December 5, 2014

Swarming horses

I have written before about the fascinating and mysterious behavior that horses exhibit when grazing together. The individual horses are frequently close together, but not always. They clearly choose collectively where to graze, which is highly variable and unpredictable, but how?

The relatively new artificial intelligence field called "swarm intelligence" may be useful here.
See for an introduction.

Swarming in this case is a technical term. It refers to complex collective behavior governed by relatively simple rules operating at the individual level. Work in this area goes by other names as well, such as flocking. See

The research question then arises whether these two collective grazing behaviors of horses, staying together and moving around, can be explained using swarm or flocking rules?

For example, it has been suggested that the way deer move around from day to day is deliberately random, in order to deter predation based on predictable behavior. Where horses graze, from hour to hour and day to day, is certainly complex, but is it random or due to some combination of simple rules?

Mind you we may not have to actually build swarming horse robots. Computer simulation may be enough. We will of course also need specific data describing these behaviors in detail. Thus the research is not simple. But the results might be useful in both horse and land management, as well as for grazing critters besides horses, such as cattle, sheep and deer.

No comments:

Post a Comment