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Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses

Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses

Title: Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses
Author: Sigurjonsdottir, Hrefna   orcid.org/0000-0002-4052-1324
Haraldsson, Hans
Date: 2019
Language: English
Scope: 1-19
University/Institute: Háskóli Íslands
University of Iceland
School: Menntavísindasvið (HÍ)
School of Education (UI)
Series: Animals;9(1)
ISSN: 2076–2615
DOI: 10.3390/ani9010014
Subject: Atferlisfræði; Árásarhneigð; Beitilönd; Félagshegðun; Hagi; Hestar; Íslenski hesturinn; Dýravelferð; Horse welfare; Aggression; Allogrooming; Pastured horses; Icelandic horse; Vinahót; Group composition
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/1463

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Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir og Hans Haraldsson. (2019). Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses. Animals, 9(14), 1-19


We explore how herd composition and management factors correlate with frequencies of social interactions in horse groups. Since the welfare of horses correlates with low aggression levels and social contact opportunities, information of this kind is important. The data are a collection of records of social interactions of 426 Icelandic horses in 20 groups of at least eight horses. The complexities and limitations of the data prohibit useful statistical modelling so the results are presented descriptively. Interesting and informative patterns emerge which can be of use both in management and in future studies. Of special interest are the low levels of agonistic behaviours in breeding groups where one stallion was present. The horses were less agonistic when in groups with young foals and where group membership was stable. Unfamiliar yearlings in peer groups were especially aggressive. Allogrooming was most frequent in groups with relatively more young horses and in unstable and small groups. Interestingly, the horses allogroomed more if they had few preferred allogrooming partners. The findings show that composition (age/sex) and stability of groups are of great importance with respect to aggression levels and opportunities for establishing bonds.


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