The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Horse
By Zhao Ying

Horse takes the seventh position among the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac that represent 12 branches of the earth in Chinese culture. As the symbol of beauty and freedom, horses are great companions of humans especially nomadic people. Here are some facts you might not know about this amazing creature.

1. Horses sleep both standing up and lying down

Horses usually doze on their feet, but lie down during deep sleep because this phase of the sleep requires all skeleton muscles to be relaxed. To protect themselves from any dangers, horses doze while standing.

Most adult horses doze during the day and lie down for a few-minutes-long deep sleep at night if they find a comfortable and safe place. Unlike humans that need to sleep over eight hours a day, adult horses usually sleep for only three hours during a 24-hour period. Foals tend to sleep longer. Before they turn three months old, foals can spend half of the day sleeping. As they grow older, they may doze more frequently.

2. Horses don't laugh!

In photographs, horses are often seen "laughing" or "grinning," but they are actually trying to smell better. The behavior is known as "flehmen response," and can be witnessed in many mammals like horses, cats, tigers, giraffes and giant pandas. The animal will curl back its upper lips and expose its front teeth, drawing air into its olfactory sense organ inside. 

This behavior is not only performed by stallions to test whether their female companions are in the reproductive state or not based on pheromones in their urine or genitals, but also practiced by mares during the first few hours after giving birth to smell the newborn. 

3. Horses have special skills

Most of us can't move our ears, but horses can rotate their ears 180 degrees because they have 10 different muscles in each ear compared to only three muscles for the human ear. The horse can also select a specific place to listen to by simply moving their ears towards the sound.

Given their eyes are on two sides of the head, they are able to see nearly 360 degrees with blind spots only in front and behind their bodies. More amazingly, both eyes can watch separately, thus, horses can process different things happening on different sides of their bodies. 

The earliest record of the Chinese zodiac was in "the Book of Songs". It mentioned horses and connected them with "wu"(午), which means noon, in the 12 earthly branches – that is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m – because noon is the best time to ride horses and go for hunting. 

In Chinese culture, horses are deemed as hardworking and faithful animals. In ancient times, people often compared talented people with the swift horse. People born in the year of the Horse are believed to be active, energetic and sometimes self-centered.

The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac

The Chinese zodiacs are based on a 12-year cycle, with each year related to an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

But how much do you know about these animals and their symbolic meanings in Chinese zodiac? Follow the series to find out.

The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Ox

The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Tiger

The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Rabbit

The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Dragon

The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Snake

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