Harnessing the power of personality assessment: Subjective assessment predicts behaviour in horses

Carrie Ijichi, Lisa M. Collins, Emma Creighton, Robert W. Elwood

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Objective assessment of animal personality is typically time consuming, requiring the repeated measure of behavioural responses. By contrast, subjective assessment of personality allows information to be collected quickly by experienced caregivers. However, subjective assessment must predict behaviour to be valid. Comparisons of subjective assessments and behaviour have been made but often with methodological weaknesses and thus, limited success. Here we test the validity of a subjective assessment against a battery of behaviour tests in 146 horses (Equus caballus). Our first aim was to determine if subjective personality assessment could predict behaviour during behaviour testing. We made specific a priori predictions for how subjectively measured personality should relate to behaviour testing. We found that Extroversion predicted time to complete a handling test and refusal behaviour during this test. It also predicted minimum distance to a novel object. Neuroticism predicted how reactive an individual was to a sudden visual stimulus but not how quickly it recovered from this. Agreeableness did not predict any behaviour during testing. There were several unpredicted correlations between subjective measures and behaviour tests which we explore further. Our second aim was to combine data from the subjective assessment and behaviour tests to gain a more comprehensive understanding of personality. We found that the combination of methods provides new insights into horse behaviour. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the idea of horses showing different coping styles, a novel finding for this species. ?? 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-52
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bridge test
  • Coping strategy
  • Novel object
  • Personality
  • Reactivity test


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