How often did horses in the wild west go deaf?

Right now I’m watching Tombstone, and I’ve noticed that there have been a lot of gunfights taking place on horseback in this movie, now I realize that a lot of the stuff in this movie is inaccurate, but I’m sure that there were a lot of guns being fired by people riding on horses back in the day. Did these horses ever go deaf from the gunfires? If so, how often, and did people have to find new ways to communicate with the horses with their hearing being shot? I’ve been at a firerange a few times and know how loud firearms can be, so how did horses cope with the noise?

1st - there was indeed a lot less gunfights on horseback than is indicated by movies. Shooting pistols from an unstable, moving position on horseback is quite inaccurate. Especially with 1800’s era guns. (Also I don’t think they were as loud as modern guns.)

2nd - Horse’s ears long and pointed, not open & rounded like humans. Horse’s ears are focused in one direction (and the direction can be changed) and are intended to screen out sounds from other directions. Human ears are mostly omni-directional, intended to gather in sounds from all directions. So there’s quite a difference in what the horse hears compared to the rider. So I suspect deafness was fairly rare.

3rd - most communication between a rider and a horse is NOT auditory. It’s mainly via the reins, or thru shifting body weight and changing leg postion/pressure. So deafness would be only a minor handicap to the horse/rider communication.

I see. Thanks for the response :slight_smile: .

Actually that is a good question. I dont know animal anatomy, but they must have a cochlea and hairs, tympanic membrane, etc. that would be sheared by loud noises. Yet they dont seem to be hurt by loud noises.

We train our dogs to gunfire when they are puppies, so they dont even flinch when a gun is fired over their heads, like they dont even seem to notice it. My dogs seem to hear just fine with no ear damage from guns.

Horses are used by hunting guides in Wyoming still to this day, and they all seem to have good hearing,and unaffected by gunfire.

The answer, I expect, is that while gun fire is loud, it is damaging over a long time frame-, it does not immediately destroy the ear, as an artillary round exploding next to you might make you go deaf in an instant. Since horses and dogs dont live much beyond 20, they dont live long enough to go deaf, just as most people/shooters/rock stars dont go significantly deaf until they are over 50 years old.