View Full Version : Horse vocalisations - "screaming"?

03-23-2015, 01:29 PM
I'd referred to a horse's scream in the opening line of a piece, but somebody pointed out that horses don't scream. I had the notion that they did, in extreme distress (this was a fight scene and the horse was injured), but I don't know if that's definitely the case. Horses screaming seems to be a common image in fiction, but then so are all sorts of less than accurate descriptions.

Do horses in distress scream (or some vocalisation that could reasonably be described as a scream)?

03-23-2015, 02:09 PM
I think they do, but it may still seem odd.

You could use "like a" to describe the scream. That might take care of any oddness about using the term.

The stallion screamed (sounded?) like a wounded lion as he reared and showed his disapproval.

Well, maybe. I'm not sure.

King Neptune
03-23-2015, 04:00 PM
Horses scream ; it is a horrible sound. Try google. there are many items about horses screaming .

03-23-2015, 06:14 PM
Horses definitely do scream, but it's actually generally related to stallions. Even if terrified mares and geldings are more likely to 'squeal' than actually scream. They don't scream when in pain or distress either, generally. It's a stallion thing, and usually related to fighting.

03-24-2015, 10:44 PM
Horses do not have a vocalization for pain. They're generally fairly quiet animals, regardless of what you see on TV. A severely injured horse might nicker to its favorite human, but even that could be a stretch. They do whinny for food, and they do squeal at each other when angry, but a horse in pain will most likely suffer in silence.

03-24-2015, 11:13 PM
It's certainly a description I've seen used often enough for it to feel familiar to me. Although I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it a cliche and I can't bring to mind any actual examples (maybe in a Kathy Reichs book I read a month or two ago? not sure).

03-25-2015, 12:41 AM
So if a cougar jumped on a horse's back and dug in its claws, the horse would not make a sound?

03-25-2015, 12:46 AM
Don't horses squeal in that situation? The suffering silence relates more to illness, doesn't it?

03-25-2015, 05:19 AM
A horse is a horse,
Of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse, of course,
Unless, of course,
The horse, of course,
Is the famous Mister Ed.


03-25-2015, 05:24 AM
This might help:


03-25-2015, 01:12 PM
Thanks folks, appreciate the responses - some useful feedback there. Seems to be a popular phrase that's only loosely backed up by reality. Decisions, decisions...

03-25-2015, 03:42 PM
Horse vocalizations are about communicating with other animals (usually horses). Mostly to the tune of "HOLY GOD I'M ALOOOONNNEE" or "SCARY THING OVER THERE" or "Mmmm, sexy" or "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM" or "Get the fuck away from me" or "food holyshitfood omg food aahhh" or "I am wary of that red bucket because red is the color of death" or "I'm meeting you and you're new and SQUEAL but oh I'm meeting you and SQUEAL" (I'm still not sure what that's all about but it happens a lot).

I could see a horse calling out to other horses if injured in the "HOLY GOD I'M ALLOOOOONNNE" vein, or similar. If the horse is alone when it thinks it should not be alone, stuck and injured, it will call out with desperate plaintive whinnying and stuff that might be called screaming if you felt like calling it that, since "desperate plaintive whinny" sounds a bit crap.

If it just gets stabbed or something I don't think it screams, but I've never stabbed a horse. :p I have been around horses when they are bitten by horseflies or something (not the same, but still a pain + surprise trigger); the reaction is usually more physical than vocal.

03-27-2015, 04:40 PM
So if a cougar jumped on a horse's back and dug in its claws, the horse would not make a sound?

Well, gee, in my 45 years with horses, this has never happened. So, I'm sorry, I can't speak to this. I can say that we had a horse break a leg and go down in the pasture, and he was silent the entire time. Silent even when his buddies left to go in for dinner. Silent as we sat and held his head until the vet came to put him down. Silent as the drugs went into his veins. He never whinnied, screamed, moaned or otherwise expressed pain or fear.

They will scream when left alone, but what I am calling screaming is just a loud whinny, not really a scream. They do tend to be dramatic, but as prey animals, they don't want to attract attention to themselves when injured.