Horses (Equus caballus) discriminate body odour cues from conspecifics

Péron, Franck and Ward , Rebecca and Burman, Oliver (2014) Horses (Equus caballus) discriminate body odour cues from conspecifics. Animal Cognition, 17 (4). pp. 1007-1011. ISSN 1435-9448

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Abstract

Knowledge about social recognition and memory in animals can help us to determine appropriate management and husbandry techniques. In this study, we used a habituation–discrimination procedure to investigate the ability of horses (Equus caballus) to distinguish between the body odour samples of unfamiliar conspecifics. To pick up body odour, we rubbed material on the coat of horses and presented these unknown body odours to 16 different conspecifics of the same sex and similar age. The test consisted of two successive two-min presentations of a sample from one individual (e.g. individual ‘A’) and a simultaneous presentation of samples from individual ‘A’ and a novel individual (e.g. individual ‘B’) during a final third presentation. The results showed that horses, regardless of sex, decreased the time they spent investigating conspecific body odour across the initial two presentations—demonstrating habituation. In the final presentation, the results demonstrated successful discrimination of the previously experienced odour because horses investigated the novel olfactory sample (‘B’) significantly more than the pre-exposed sample (‘A’). Taken together, these findings suggest, for the first time, that horses are able to discriminate two stimuli derived from body odours of unfamiliar conspecifics over short period of time.

Keywords:Body odour, Discrimination, Equus caballus, Habituation, Social memory, NotOAChecked
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:12658
Deposited On:10 Dec 2013 09:04

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