Are Camels Smarter Than Horses? (What The Science Says!)

Determining how intelligent humans are is a tough task – determining how smart camels and horses are is almost impossible. 

Neither Mensa nor BuzzFeed IQ tests can help us here. The animals don’t seem to want to fill out their questionnaire.

So how do we determine if camels are smarter than horses then?

Instead of their IQ, we will look at their EQ.

Encephalization quotient or EQ is a way of determining animal intelligence by measuring brain size.

It is often used to determine how small or large a species’ brain is, compared to that of other species of similar body size.

It represents a “scientific” way of comparing the intelligence of camels and horses.

A majority of mammals are expected to have an EQ of 1; a higher EQ than that may be associated with above-average intelligence. [1]

are camels smarter than horses

Are Camels Smarter Than Horses Then?

Taking into consideration their brain size, camels are smarter than horses. Camels have an EQ between 1.2 and 1.3, while horses have an EQ of 0.9. Bactrian camels have an EQ of 1.3 and dromedary camels have an EQ of 1.2.

The EQ of the Bactrian camel is higher than that of a horse but similar to the one of the dromedary camel.

This might imply that the Bactrian camel has a similar level of intelligence to the dromedary camel, but higher than the horse.

SpeciesBrain WeightEQ
Humans3 lbs (1.4 kg)6.5-7.3
Bactrian camel1.4 lbs (626 g)1.3
Dromedary Camel1.68 lbs (762 g)1.2
Horse1.12 lbs (510 g)0.9
Brain size and EQ intelligence values for a human, a camel, and a horse

Humans, for example, have a brain weighing around 3 lbs (1.4 kg) and an EQ between 6.56 and 7.4. [2

The EQ formula can predict intelligence in animals, mainly mammals. For example, humans have the highest EQ value – evolved animals have a more developed cerebral cortex than less evolved animals. 

What is interesting is that the EQ of predator species is higher than the EQ of animals they prey on. Also, the EQ of prey species that use strategies to avoid predators is higher than prey species that do not use such strategies.

Llamas, for example, have an EQ of 0.9. This might suggest that they are less smart than camels but have a similar intelligence to horses.

Camels also show developed hippocampus, good spatial memory, excellent ability of orientation in the desert (even during sandstorms), and the ability to learn quickly. Scientists recorded associate learning among camels, as well. 

In camels, the relative size of the hippocampus to the cerebrum (the largest and uppermost part of the brain) is extremely large, compared to humans and elephants. This is a good indication that a camel has a good spatial memory.

There have been recorded cases of abandoned camels managing to return home from 370 miles (600 km) away, or of a camel leading a girl home during a sandstorm at night.

Both the camels and horses have excellent memory. Camels remember events that happened years ago and to hold a grudge against people that mistreated them. 

Most horses can recognize themselves in the mirror, understand human emotions, and learn complex tricks or commands easily. 

John Hare, an expert on wild Bactrians, stated that Bactrian camels are more intelligent than horses. He quotes one authority on the Chinese Bactrian camels that they pick up English faster than foreigners do. [3

Camels And Horses Both Display Social Skills And Intelligence

Camels are known to group together to cool themselves down, as their body temperature is often less than the surrounding air. [4

One “negative” social behavior among camels can be seen in males during a mating season.

If there are not enough female camels for a male camel to breed with, he will lay down next to the female and wait for the camel to fall asleep. The male camel will then jump over her, pin her down to prevent her from getting up, and take advantage of her. Not the best use of their intelligence, we might say.

On the other hand, female horses form alliances between themselves to protect their offspring. There have been recorded cases of interventions in affiliative and agonistic interactions of group members for bond protection and conciliatory behavior after a conflict. [5

Further reading: Are camels related to horses?

TL;DR – Are Camels Smarter Than Horses?

Camels are smarter than horses. They have an EQ of 1.3, which signifies above-average intelligence. Horses have an EQ of 0.9, which means a bit lower intelligence. Both camels and horses have an excellent memory and learn commands quickly. However, camels are said to learn commands faster and are easier to train.

It is worth noting that all of the animal cognition tests, including the EQ one, are not perfect and have a lot of flaws. A lot of the available information relies too heavily on anecdotes; more controlled experiments with large-enough sample sizes are needed.

We hope we answered the question “are camels smarter than horses” properly and that you found our article interesting.


References

[1] Chen, Jingchen, et al. “Morphology of Rhinencephalon and Hippocampal formation of the Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) with their adaptive features.” Veterinary research communications 33.1 (2009): 25-32

[2] John Hare, Shadows Across the Sahara: Travels with Camels from Lake Chad to Tripoli (London, 2003), p. 38.

[3] Cairó, Osvaldo. “External measures of cognition.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5 (2011): 108.

[4] Hoter, Abdullah, Sandra Rizk, and Hassan Y. Naim. “Cellular and molecular adaptation of Arabian camel to heat stress.” Frontiers in genetics 10 (2019): 588.

[5] Schuetz, Aurelia, Kate Farmer, and Konstanze Krueger. “Social learning across species: horses (Equus caballus) learn from humans by observation.” Animal cognition 20.3 (2017): 567-573.

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