Comparisons of the Social Organisation and Seasonal Time-Budgets of Grass Kept Domesticated Horses & Wild or Feral Horses

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Introduction The man-made captive environment is very different from the free living environment in which wild horse herds form their cohesive society. Wild herds consist of a harem group each with an alpha male and female and a number of mares with foals. A bachelor band of single stallions may also be found either making-up part of the herd or a separate herd (Kaseda et al., 1995). Studies of the time-budgets of feral and wild horses show how the members of the harem divide their time between different activities each day (Duncan 1985). Both environmental and social interactions have been said to have an effect on the time spent foraging and resting (Duncan, 1985) but there has been little investigation into whether these feral behaviours are reflected in domesticated herds. Materials and Methods The behaviour of five grass-kept domesticated horses was observed using focal sampling. The group consisted of three mares and two geldings in an eight acre field. Each individual was observed for ten minutes three times a day for consecutive days. Observations were made early morning, midday and late afternoon. In addition to watching the horses as individuals the group was observed as a whole for a ten minute period and the observations noted. Initial observations were made in November and then repeated during April of the following year. Conclusion The results from study concluded that the behaviour of the observed domesticated group did not differ greatly from the behaviour recorded for horses in a free-living environment. The domesticated group demonstrated a harem structure consisting of an alpha male, an alpha female, a mare group and a bachelor band. The time-budget of the group showed seasonal variation between the two observation periods. Foraging and locomotory activities were more frequent during the winter observation period whereas resting time increased, and aggression decreased during the spring observation period. It is recommended that horse owners consider the importance of the social group when reflecting on management strategies for domesticated horses. References Duncan, P. (1985) Time-Budgets of Camargue Horses III. Environmental Influences Behaviour. 92: 188-208 Kaseda, Y., Khalil, A.M. & Ogawa, H. (1995) Harem Stability and Reproductive Success of Misaki Feral mares. Equine Veterinary Journal. 27 (5): 368-372
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2007
EventStudent Animal Welfare Conference 2007 -
Duration: 1 Apr 20071 Apr 2007


ConferenceStudent Animal Welfare Conference 2007


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