What do Forrest Gump, horses and music have in common?

What do Forrest Gump, horses and music have in common?

What kind of music do animals like? Can cows tell the difference between classical and rap? Which animals are partial to a bit of REM and what do Forrest Gump, horses and music have in common? Science has the answers!

Before my first child could even speak we had noted her reaction to music. Just having the radio on in the background we often observed a change in her posture or mood depending on what was playing; in fact, we frequently had to turn off the radio when a slow or sad tune would reduce her to tears.

This has fascinated me ever since, from the effect of music on our mood, our health, and our brain development. I never gave much thought though to the effect, if any, of music on animals. That is, until today. A good friend called round for a chat and fascinated me with something she had heard on the radio about the effect of  the theme tune to Forrest Gump on the emotional state of horses. My interest was piqued. With a little research, it seems many animals respond in different ways to different types of music, just as we do. And for the animals that have no interest in ‘human’ music at all… there is now species-specific music created just for them!

Music with a Meow in mind

It would appear that cats are not terribly impressed with any of the music composed for our human ears. They show little or no reaction to it. However, this prompted a small team of scientists (Snowdon and Savage) and a composer, David Teie, to look at just what might appeal to our feline friends. With much study and research, they created music with cats in mind, composed of tones, pitches and frequencies that would most appeal to cats, and mimic what is in their natural environment. They have reported that the cats they studies showed an increased interest and preference in the species-specific music (with greater positive responses in younger and older cats when compared to middle-aged cats).

REM keeps these cows ‘udderly’ content

Many farmers know that playing music to their cows keeps them calm and happy during milking. In 2001 a study run by a group of Psychologists from the University of  Leicester, UK,  played music of different tempos to herds of more than 1,000 Friesian cattle. The results were impressive: they played a variety of music, from slow, classical, techno and rap to the animals for 12 hours a day, over nine weeks. While they found no increase in milk yield when playing fast tracks to the cows, they reported a 3% increase in each animal when slow music was played; that is about 3/4 of a litre or one and 1/2 pints of milk extra per cow, per day.

What tunes did the cows seem to enjoy the most? “Everybody hurt” by REM and “Bridge over troubled water” by Simon and Garfunkel were apparently popular for increasing milk yield and keeping the ladies calm!

Based on this knowledge, the British Columbia Dairy Association decided to jazz things up a little by inviting people to compose some mellow cow tunes and enter them into their “Music makes More Milk” contest. Finalists had to impress the jury of five Holstein cows. The winning tune (if you really need to know) was titled “A Moo down Milk Lane”.


Image source:pixabay.com

Moving on from bovine Moosic we finally come to the horse part of this story! What do our equine friends think of our human music?

Music keeps them ‘stable’

A 2015 study on purebred Arabian race horses looked at the emotional and performance levels of the horses when exposed to classical music in the stable area. The initial results of the study suggested that the horses exposed to classical music exhibited reduced stress levels (determined by measuring cardiac activity variables) and an increase in performance (as measured by their overall wins). These observations peaked at the two to three-month phase of the study and then dropped back to normal levels over time (suggesting that the horses became accustomed to the music and it had less effect).

Horse at stable door

photo credit: What you looking at? via photopin (license)

The music used in the study was specifically composed with horses in mind. What about human music?

That’s a ‘neigh’ for jazz

A 2013 study tested horses’ emotional responses to classical, country, rock and jazz. The results from this small study suggested that classical and country music had the most calming effect on the animals tested and the fast tempos and minor keys of the jazz music put the animals more on edge.

Then someone decided to try a little Forrest Gump theme music! (Finally!!)

Trot Forrest Trot!

From specific genre to a specific piece of music… the Forrest Gump theme tune. This classical piece, by Alan Silvestri, was chosen for its ‘repeatability’. The study was carried out using horse from the French National Stud. 48 horses were fitted with newly designed horse headphones; half of the horses were played the Forrest Gump theme tune while travelling in horseboxes; the other half were played the music while being shod by a farrier. Both these events will typically increase stress indicators in the animals.

And the results? The horses that were played music during transport showed the greatest reduction in stress indicators. This could be very good news for trainers and owners of horses that often have to travel internationally for events. The effect in the animals that were being shod was less effective, although both groups showed a quicker heart rate recovery afterwards.

Personally, I find these results fascinating. I grew up around horses and found them very sensitive creatures, in tune with everything in their surroundings. I love the idea of reducing their stress in any way possible. And I listened to the Forrest Gump theme tune while I wrote this piece, it certainly brought me to my calm place!

Have a listen.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed a pet respond to a particular type of music? What kind of music was it? Or what favourite piece would you like to see used in these experiments? Have you any favourite animal music stories of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

Mystery Creature Revealed – the Sea Squirt

Mystery Creature Revealed – the Sea Squirt

Well done to six-year-old Daniel who correctly identified the Mystery Creature (again). Daniel really knows his animals! The Mystery Creature was a sea squirt… a very interesting animal, here are just a few reasons why.

  • Sea squirts come in many shapes and sizes, there are more than 3,000 species of them. They are officially called tunicates (the name refers to their tunic like exterior). Depending on their size and shape they are also called sea pork, sea tulips, sea pineapples and sea liver. Sea squirts get their name from their tendency to compress their bodies and squirt out water when disturbed.


Sea Pineapple: Image credit: Project Manhattan; Image source: wiki commons
  • Tunicates are widely distributed through the World’s oceans, but most are found in warm seas. Although there are exceptions, most sea squirts spend their adult lives attached to a solid object, usually on the seabed.
  • They start their lives in egg form but quickly grow into tadpole-like larvae (often within a matter of hours), with a tail and a basic type of backbone, called a notochord. In this form, they are unable to feed and their primary function is to find a suitable place to attach themselves, for the rest of their lives. Some species, such as the larvaceans never anchor, instead, they retain their tails which help to propel them through the water.
  • Once the sea squirt larva (tadpole-like form) finds a suitable place to anchor, it will attach, head first, glueing itself in place with a sticky like secretion. Next comes a large transformation, it reabsorbed much of its body (including its tail, notochord and basic eye) and recycles them into its adult structure.
  • The adult structure of most sea squirts consists of a sac-like body with two siphons – water is sucked into one and forced out of the other. Most sea squirts are filter feeders, they take in seawater and filter our plankton and nutrients, ejecting the filtered water back out of their bodies.


Image credit: Silke Baron; Image source: Wiki commons

  • During the transformation from larva to adult, the sea squirt reabsorbed many parts of its body,transforming them into adult organs. Sea squirts are known for ‘eating their own brain‘ in this manner, as they reabsorb the basic brain of the larva during the transformation. It is not quite as simple, or dramatic as the statement suggests, though, adults do contain a hollow cerebral ganglion, a brain type structure with nerves feeding out to certain parts of the body.
  • Most sea squirts are hermaphrodites, meaning that they contain both male and female organs. Many can also reproduce by budding, a process whereby a new animal buds off and grows from the parent, eventually disconnecting once fully formed.
  • Although there are some solitary species of sea squirts, most live in groups or colonies.

Thanks again to Daniel for correctly identifying this Mystery Creature, it really is quite an amazing animal. Check back next week for another new Mystery Creature!




Ten science experiments you can do with a plastic bottle – Part 2

Ten science experiments you can do with a plastic bottle – Part 2

We are back with more bottle science experiments! How did you get on with the first five we shared last week? We have had plenty of feedback from people who tried them out and really enjoyed them so here are five more bottle science experiments to try!

You can find experiments 1 to 5 in this post!


6. Using Friction to defy gravity


7. The Hovercraft Experiment


8. The Cloud in a Bottle Experiment


9. Bottle Rocket Experiment No. 1

This video doesn’t include the science of how it happens, so here it is! As you know from previous experiments… when we mix the vinegar and the bread soda the react rapidly making a salt, water and Carbon Dioxide gas. Gases usually take up more space than liquids or solids so the sudden production of Carbon Dioxide gas causes a rapid increase in pressure inside the bottle. The gas wants to break out of the confined space within the bottle but the cork is in the way. With enough pressure the cork is forced off and the gas escapes.

Newton’s Thirds Law of motion states that…

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction!

This law is what makes the rocket shoot into the air. The first ‘action’ is the cork shooting off the bottom of the bottle; this produces the ‘equal and opposite’ reaction of the bottle rocket shooting off in the opposite direction! It all follows the laws of physics!

10. Bottle Rocket Experiment No. 2

This rockets follows the exact same law as the previous experiment, except this time the pressure is built up by the air we pump into the bottle. This pressure eventually builds up forcing the cork, and the water, out of the bottle and the rocket is then propelled off in the opposite direction, shooting up into the sky.

And there you have it! Ten fantastic experiments to do with a plastic bottle. If you missed the first five you can find them here! Please let us know what you thought of this series and how you got on. If you like these video experiments and would like some more just let us know in the comments below and we will get working on a new series straight away!



Ten science experiments you can do with a plastic bottle – Part 1

Ten science experiments you can do with a plastic bottle – Part 1

Do you love science and want to try out some experiments yourself? Do you worry that you’ll need special equipment and expensive kits? FEAR NOT! There are so many science experiments you can do with things you have around your home RIGHT NOW! Just remember to always ask an adult’s permission. Finish drinking your water and save that bottle because we are going to share TEN amazing experiments with you… you’ll never look at a plastic bottle in the same way again!

A few months ago I promised to share ten experiments you can do with a simple plastic bottle. If you have been following me on Face Book you will have noticed that I have shared one every week and we reached ten no problem; I’ve compiled all the instruction videos here so that you can pick and choose which ones you want to do (or, even better, try all ten).

The reason I started this was because I was sick of seeing science experiment kits full of rubbish (I am not saying all science kits are rubbish, but I have seen my fair share lately). I wanted to show you that you can do plenty of science experiments from things you have around your own home. And what better example to use than a simple, humble, plastic bottle. A great example of reusing and recycling.


Without further ado… here are first five Science Experiments you can do with a plastic bottle:

  1. make a fire extinguisher


2. Inflate a balloon



3. The Sneezing Alien Experiment


4. and 5. Ocean in a bottle experiment and Lava Lamp experiment


Those are the first five experiments. Have lots of fun with them, check back next week for the next five experiments. Remember to keep those bottles!

As always, we love to get comments and feedback so do let us know if you try some of these experiments; we’d love to know how you get on, did you make some of your own modifications and improvements to the experiments? Would you like us to share more video experiments?


Mystery Creature Revealed – the Hoatzin

Mystery Creature Revealed – the Hoatzin

Last week’s mystery creature, a very unusual looking bird, was the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). Well done to six-year-old David who knew what it was. David is an avid animal lover who currently lives in Singapore.


Image credit: Bill Bouton, Image source: wiki commons.
  • Hoatzin are very unusal among birds for a variety of reasons and have intrigued scientists since they were first described in 1776, by German zoologist Statius Müller. Here are just some of facts about these amazing creatures.
  • Hoatzin are herbivores – but most of their diet consists of leaves, which is unique among birds. In order to digest this cellulose rich diet they have a digestive system more similar to cows (and ruminants) than to any other bird.
  • They have developed very large crops and the leaves they digest are fermented within their digestive systems. This process begins in their crop and is aided by anaerobic bacteria found throughout their guts, which feed on the leaves and help break down the tough cellulose within them.
  • They digest their food very slowly and are often seen sitting around, appearing to do very little at all.
  • The development of their large crop to aid digestion comes at a price; these birds have little space left in their chest and their breast-bones are very simple. Their pectoral muscles are small and weak. These are the muscles that power flight, so these birds are poor flyers and appear quite awkward and ungainly.
  • There is one other thing about their diet and digestion that makes these birds very distinctive, it is their smell! They are often referred to as Stink Birds, as the fermentation of leaves does not create an odour that humans find attractive. Because of this foul smell, people have no wish to eat them so they are not hunted. Sometimes it pays to be smelly!
  • Hoatzin live very social lives, often found in large flocks of up to 40 birds. They are found in the rainforests of the Amazon – usually in trees along a river or beside a lake or some other water source. They are very vocal birds with a variety of sounds from calls, to hisses, grunts and croaks.
  • The appearance of the Hoatzin is very striking and gives them the reputation as a ‘pre-historic’ bird. They have bright blue faces with dark red eyes. They have a strip of long feathers on their head, a crest, giving them a mohawk-type feature. They belong to the family called Opisthocomidae which comes from the greek for ‘have long hair behind‘ – referring to these mohawk styles.
  • Hoatzin are so unique among bird that they are the only species in this Opisthocomidae family.
  • The chicks of these birds have claws on their wings (wich disappear after about three months). If the nest is threatened the chicks will often flee and hide, they are even able to escape to the water if necessary and are good underwater swimmers. Once the coast is clear they will use their clawed wings to help them climb back up a tree, to the nest.
  • Based on their dinosaur-like appearance, and the wing claw of their chicks, there has long been a fascination with the evolution of this bird. Some thought they were the link between reptiles and birds. Others thought they were a modern day version of the Archaeopteryx, a bird attributed as an evolutionary step from dinosaur to bird. There were also similarities in appearance between the Hoatzin and the Archaeopteryx. Recent genetic sequencing of Hoatzin genome now suggests that it is the only surviving member of a lineage that branched off some 64 million years ago (not long after many dinosaurs became extinct) and that it evolved its traits indepedent of the archaopteryx lineage.


I found this one of the most fascinating Mystery Creatured to date, I hope you enjoyed it too. As always, if you have any suggestions for the Mystery Creature spot, please get in contact!