Behavioural adaptation in the domestic horse: potential role of apparently abnormal responses including stereotypic behaviour

Cooper, Jonathan J. and Albentosa, Melissa J. (2005) Behavioural adaptation in the domestic horse: potential role of apparently abnormal responses including stereotypic behaviour. Livestock production science, 92 (2). pp. 177-182. ISSN 0301-6226

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Full text URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.livprodsci.2004.11.017

Abstract

Classically, biologists have considered adaptation of behavioural characteristics in terms of long-term functional benefits to the individual, such as survival or reproductive fitness. In captive species, including the domestic horse, this level of explanation is limited, as for the most part, horses are housed in conditions that differ markedly from those in which they evolved. In addition, an individual horse's reproductive fitness is largely determined by man rather than its own behavioural strategies. Perhaps for reasons of this kind, explanations of behavioural adaptation to environmental challenges by domestic animals, including the capacity to learn new responses to these challenges, tend to concentrate on the proximate causes of behaviour. However, understanding the original function of these adaptive responses can help us explain why animals perform apparently novel or functionless activities in certain housing conditions and may help us to appreciate what the animal welfare implications might be. This paper reviews the behavioural adaptation of the domestic horse to captivity and discusses how apparently abnormal behaviour may not only provide a useful practical indicator of specific environmental deficiencies but may also serve the animal as an adaptive response to these deficiencies in an “abnormal” environment

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Classically, biologists have considered adaptation of behavioural characteristics in terms of long-term functional benefits to the individual, such as survival or reproductive fitness. In captive species, including the domestic horse, this level of explanation is limited, as for the most part, horses are housed in conditions that differ markedly from those in which they evolved. In addition, an individual horse's reproductive fitness is largely determined by man rather than its own behavioural strategies. Perhaps for reasons of this kind, explanations of behavioural adaptation to environmental challenges by domestic animals, including the capacity to learn new responses to these challenges, tend to concentrate on the proximate causes of behaviour. However, understanding the original function of these adaptive responses can help us explain why animals perform apparently novel or functionless activities in certain housing conditions and may help us to appreciate what the animal welfare implications might be. This paper reviews the behavioural adaptation of the domestic horse to captivity and discusses how apparently abnormal behaviour may not only provide a useful practical indicator of specific environmental deficiencies but may also serve the animal as an adaptive response to these deficiencies in an “abnormal” environment
Keywords:Animal behaviour, Domestication, Stereotypic behaviour of horses, Behavioural adaptation, Horse
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:518
Deposited By: Bev Jones
Deposited On:22 Jun 2007
Last Modified:18 Jul 2011 16:12

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