Do animals understand numbers or numerosity?


Today in class I was proposed to the question, “Can animals count?”. If I’m honest, this is something I have never really thought about. I’ve never had a pet before so have never been heavily interested in animals, so this is something which had never crossed my mind. At first, I was 100% sure that animals were not able to count, then we were introduced to the story of the horse, Clever Hans. This made me think carefully about   In the 1900s, it was announced that this special horse was able to add, multiply, subtract and divide, ‘Berlin’s wonderful horse; He can do almost everything but talk – how he was taught’ (Heyn, E. T., 1904). Hans would tap his hoof the amount of times he thought the answer was. However, while it might’ve seemed to the public that he was able to count I wasn’t convinced and as video continued it explained that after investigation, it was proven that Hans wasn’t performing these intelligent tasks, but was watching his owners’ movement to tell him how many times to tap his hoof.


We were then introduced to the case study of the chimpanzee, Ayumu. I found this very interesting at how fast Ayumu could process and remember the correct number order and where each number was placed on the screen. As a class we then tried to see if we were able to beat Ayumu. Personally, after many attempts I wasn’t successful at beating him! I found this very fascinating at how fast the chimpanzee and was extremely impressed how he was able to process what was going on at such an extreme speed. It makes me wonder what will be happening in several years to come, will animals be interacting more with humans? Will animals be used more with technology?


Heyn, E. T., (1904) ‘Berlin’s wonderful horse; He can do almost everything but talk – how he was taught’ The New York Times [Online]. 31 October. Available at:


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