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Observations placeholder

Elberfeld's horses and Hans, the Russian stallion - The horses-calculators



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As quoted in Gabriel Delanne - Materials for use in the study of Reincarnation

In 1912, the Parisian press made a big fuss about the publication of the experiments carried out by Mr. Krall, a wealthy trader from Elberfeld, with his Muhamed and Zarif horses. These intelligent four-legged creatures, using a conventional alphabet, could talk to their master, perform complicated calculations, even extracting square and cubic roots. It is understandable that such statements were greeted with general disbelief. However, several renowned psychologists who had studied the case of these remarkable animals realized that there was really a new field of observation for animal psychology, and many reports were published in the Annals of Psychological Sciences of the years 1912 and 1913, in the Archives of Psychology of French-speaking Switzerland and in the Italian Review Psyché. I will freely quote passages from these different sources. They will provide certainty about the remarkable abilities of these animals.

Mr. Krall was not the first to study the intelligence of horses; the credit goes to a predecessor named Wilhelm Von Osten, who in 1890 believed he noticed in the horse Hans, a Russian stallion, signs of intelligence that he decided to cultivate. With unceasing patience, he tried to make himself understood by Hans, who became capable not only of counting, that is, of hitting the number of units on a springboard in front of him with his right foot and with his left foot the number of tens, but also of making real calculations and solving small problems. He learned to read and pointed out the date of each day of, the current week, etc.

The publicity surrounding these sensational results caused violent controversy. A commission was appointed in 1904, composed of Misters Stumpf and Nagel, professors of psychology and physiology at the University of Berlin; the director of the zoo; a circus director; veterinarians; cavalry officers. The result of this investigation was that there were no tricks or deceptions, since the horse was calculating exactly, even in the absence of its owner. At that time, Mr. Oskar Pfungst, a student at the Berlin Psychology Laboratory, after careful study of Hans, believed that he could affirm that the horse was led to make correct answers by observing unconscious movements of the experimenter's head or eyes. From then on, the question of animal intelligence seemed to be buried and, in 1909, the predecessor Von Osten died in despair.

But now one of his admirers and students, Mr. Krall, who was unconvinced by the validity of Mr. Pfungst's explanations and very knowledgeable in the study of animal psychology, having inherited Hans, methodically studied it and made his findings known in a large volume that drew attention once again to this fascinating issue. Mr. Krall said that Hans is able to work in complete darkness and also when blinkers are put on that prevent him from seeing the audience. Finally, he answered exactly, contrary to what Mr. Pfungst said, when the questions were asked to the horse at more than 4 and half meters behind him.

There was no doubt any longer: Hans did not respond to visible signals and the exact answers were the product of his own psyche.

 Mr. Krall discovered in a series of experiments that the visual acuity of the horse is very fine and very strong and that it is not subject to the optical illusions that are being tried to provoke in it. Finally Hans understood the German language perfectly and became able to express ideas using a conventional alphabet struck with his hoof[2].

 As a result of this research, Hans, old and tired, was now giving only uncertain results, which led Mr. Krall to obtain two Arab stallions, Muhamed and Zarif, whose education he soon began, and which produced the best results. Thirteen days after the first lesson, Muhamed made small additions and subtractions. Remarkably, Mr. Krall did not teach his horses how we do these operations, only what they consist of.

In the following May, Muhamed understood French and German and was able to extract square and cubic roots, perform small calculations like this one.

On the other hand, Zarif learned to spell out on his own initiative the words that were being spoken in front of him and that he had never seen written before. It is conceivable that such results caused a general astonishment, for, as Mr. Claparède wrote, it was the greatest event that had ever occurred in general psychology. Scientists arrived from all sides, who, at first incredulous, returned convinced of the authenticity of Mr. Krall's stories. Among the renowned scientists who judged Elberfeld's horses, I would first like to mention Ernest Hoeckel, the illustrious Hoeckel, who wrote to Mr. Krall: "Your careful and critical research shows in a convincing way the existence of the animal's reason, which, for me, has never been in doubt."

The famous naturalist obviously saw in this similarity between animals and humans a confirmation of his theories. Then there is Dr. Edinger, the eminent neurologist from Frankfurt; Professors Dr. H. Kraemer and Dr. H. E. Ziégler, both from Stuttgart; Dr. Paul Sarazin from Basel; Professor Ostwald from Berlin; Professor Dr. A. Beredka, Institut Pasteur, Paris; Dr Claparède, University of Geneva; Professor Scheeller; Physicist Professor Gehrke, Berlin; Professor Goldstein, Darmstadt; Professor Dr Von Buttel Reopen, Oldemburg; Professor Dr William Mackenzie, Genoa; Professor Dr R. Assagioli, editor-in-chief of the magazine Psyché, Florence; Dr. Hartkopf, Cologne; Dr. Freudenberg, Brussels, who came to Elberfeld to check the unexpected faculties that were revealed in Mr. Krall's inmates. Finally, it was Dr Ferrari, Professor of Neurology at the University of Bologna, who, after publishing an article in the Revisla de Psychologia and the Annales des Sciences Psychiques contrary to Mr Krall's thesis, then declared himself convinced of the reality of the intelligence of horses after a more in-depth examination of the subject.

All these statements are necessary to make us accept the reality of the intelligence of horses, since we are always inclined to see in our domestic animals only pure machines.

However, as Alfred Russel Wallace says, "facts are stubborn things", and we must obey them when they are irrefutably established, which is the case here. How else can we explain the results like these other than by the animal's own experience? One day Mr. Mackensie and the other attendants posed a task on the board:
 : the exact answer 37 was given by Muhamed while the attendants were all in the yard and looking into the stable through a small loophole. On another occasion, the problem was put on the phone and its solution, although ignored by the person who wrote it on the board, was given exactly by the intelligent quadruped.

Better still, questions in sealed envelopes, whose solutions were unknown to all assistants, were sent by Dr. Hartkopf from Cologne. Muhamed answered accurately. On the other hand, Mr. Maeterlinck, in his book The Unknown Host, recounts that, having visited Elberfeld, he asked Muhamed and Zarif small problems whose solution he did not know, not having looked at the figures to be added together; however, the answers were always correct.

So it seems that this is not a transmission of thought or even a telepathic action by anyone. Since the issue is of the utmost importance, I will again quote Professor G. Grabow's report against the hypothesis of the transmission of thought as an explanation of all cases. He was experimenting with the Hans horse. Here it is:

I stuck blank papers as the playing cards and put numbers on each one for small operations, for example: 2+3 ; 4+2 ; 7-2 ; 12-5 ; 5 x 2, etc....

As we had agreed, Mr. Von Osten was to be positioned in the left corner of the courtyard, while I was positioned in the right corner; then he had to send Hans to me. This was done. Hans came in front of me and I said to him: "Hans, I will show you a card on which there is a calculation to be made: go to the gentleman opposite, and, if you give the right answer, you will have sugar. Do you want to? "Hans replied affirmatively, lowering his head.

 I took the cards out of my pocket, mixed them up in such a way that I didn't know what the card below was and showed it to Hans. I asked him, "Did you understand?" He replied again "yes" by lowering his head. "So go to the gentleman across the courtyard and tell him the answer." Hans went to Mr. Von Osten, who asked him, "So what is the solution?" Hans kicked five times. What is the first number? Answer 2. What is the second number? Answer 3.

It was only then that I looked at the card at the bottom of the package. Indeed, on this card there were 2+3, which Hans had read, understood, and calculated correctly. All this without anyone having been able to help him and even without being helped by an unconscious suggestion which, in this case, was impossible.

As for me, I didn't know the numbers and Von Osten couldn't have seen them on the other side of the courtyard.

This experiment was repeated in the same way and Hans answered his master 7.

What number is placed first? Answer: 12.

Hans had therefore understood the minus sign and had solved the problem 12 - 5 quite correctly without any help.


Member of the Higher Council of

Public Education of Prussia.

Here are two more examples of this, which are all the more interesting because they demonstrate a truly intelligent behavior[3]:

Mr. Krall, speaking of his pony, tells Maeterlinck the following two anecdotes that demonstrate the spontaneity of the intelligence of these remarkable solipeds.

One morning, for example, I arrived at the stable and prepared to give it my arithmetic lesson; barely in front of the springboard, he started kicking. I let it do this and I am amazed to hear an entire sentence, an absolutely human sentence come out, letter by letter, from the beast's hoof. "Albert beat Haenschen," he told me, that day. Another time, I write under his dictation: "Haenschen bit Kama". Like a child who sees his father again, he felt the need to make me aware of the small events of the stable; he was the humble and naïve chronicler of a modest life without adventures....

This is really a spontaneous activity of the animal.

In another circumstance, Zarif spelled out "tired me" and instead of solving a problem that was proposed to him, he gave the name of Mr. Claparède by omitting the vowels according to a habit that is familiar to these horses.

 Mr. Krall bought a beautiful blind horse named Berto and taught him how to calculate by touch, pointing to the numbers with a finger on the animal's body. The attempt was fully successful, says Mr. Assagioli, because in a very short time Berto learned to hit the number of shots corresponding to the numbers drawn on his body. He was able to provide the exact result of several simple additions that were asked aloud such as 65 + 11; 65 + 12, etc.; and a few days earlier, he had correctly answered the questions 9 - 4; 8-2 ; 3 x 3, and so on.

Finally a small pony named Haenschen also learned the calculation. Here are different horses, as of a breed and as of an age, which demonstrate their intelligence by responding accurately to the small questions they are asked. Undoubtedly, like humans, they are not always well prepared; they sometimes make mistakes and, strangely enough, it seems that sometimes the character of the person examining them influences their mentality; as much with some people they respond quickly and correctly, as they show repugnance and unwillingness towards those they don't like.

All these facts therefore seem to establish that, contrary to the generally accepted opinion, the horse is really intelligent, that he reasoned and that he is therefore closer to humanity than one might have thought by looking only at his place on the zoological scale.

The source of the experience

Delanne, Gabriel

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