The welfare of an individual depends on its capacity to overcome suboptimal conditions in its environment; otherwise, its physical and psychological health becomes compromised. A situation that clearly indicates lack of control of the environment is the expression of abnormal behaviours, such as stereotypies. This study aimed to verify the well-being of police horses using a new rapid form of welfare assessment: an archaeological approach. To this end, we sampled and quantified marks found on the stables, deposited as a result of abnormal behaviour. We cross-referenced these physical marks with veterinary records of diseases, such as colic, known to be associated with stress. A total of 46 horses were sampled and the results showed a significant medium-strength, positive correlation between bite mark frequency on stable doors and the incidence of colic. A weak significant positive correlation was found between length of scratch marks (from pawing) and the incidence of lameness. We conclude that these marks reflect the accumulated expression of abnormal behaviour and can provide rapid insight into the welfare of individual animals.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sept 2014|