Eliminatory behaviour of a bachelor group of Przewalski horses in a semi-reserve; comparison with the domestic horse

Goodwin, D. and Redman, P. (1997) Eliminatory behaviour of a bachelor group of Przewalski horses in a semi-reserve; comparison with the domestic horse. In, Špinka, Marek, Illmann, Gudrun, Maletínská, Jitka, Štìtková, Zuzana, Bartoš, Ludìk and Koš ál, Ľubor (eds.) Proceedings of the 31st International Congress of the ISAE (ISAE '97). 31st International Congress of the ISAE (ISAE '97) Prague, Czech Republic; Ivanka pri Dunaji, Slovakia, Research Institute of Animal Production and Institute of Animal Biochemistry and Genetics, p.48.


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The Przewalski horse (Equus przewalskii) is extinct in the wild, but has a current population of around 1300 animals
housed in zoos and semi-reserves. As the ratio of births of males:females is about 1:1, males which are currently surplus to the
requirements of the breeding program can be difficult to house. A group of 5 male Przewalskis was introduced to the study site
at Eelmoor Marsh, South East England, (a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest) as part of an experimental scheme to
help alleviate housing pressure in zoos and as an alternative to mowing to control the growth of invasive vegetation. We have
investigated the eliminatory behaviour of this bachelor group and the distribution of faeces on the study site, as part of a series
of observations of their social behaviour, grazing preferences and habitat use. The distribution of dung was measured and
compared throughout the summer months using a transect method. This data, together with continuous observations of the
horses during the same period, was used to determine whether defecation was random, avoided preferred grazing areas, or was
contagious within specific latrine sites, as reported in domestic horses. Observations of eliminatory marking behaviour and the
use of stud piles (communal mounds of faeces) by individual horses were made during summer and winter months to allow
comparisons between seasons.
Social status within the group had an effect on the marking behaviour of stallions. The dominant stallion displayed
significantly more defecation marking behaviour (P<0.01) than the other mature male, and showed defecation marking
behaviour more often in response to the dung of the subordinate mature stallion than to the dung of the juveniles (P<0.005 and
P<0.05 respectively). The expression of marking behaviour by mature stallions was higher in the summer than the winter
(P<0.005). Stud pile use occurred during both the summer and winter months, and was most prevalent in areas where it had a
high-impact visual stimulus. These horses did not appear to show latrine behaviour as reported in domestic horses, although
they did avoid grazing next to newly deposited faeces on stud piles in the summer. Dung which was not deposited on stud piles
was distributed contagiously (P<0.05) across the study site, mainly along regularly used tracks. These data support the
argument that latrine use in domestic horses may be a response to confinement.

Item Type: Book Section
ISBNs: 8088780160 (hardback)
Related URLs:
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Q Science > QH Natural history
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Psychology > Division of Cognition
ePrint ID: 63571
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
August 1997Published
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2008
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:48
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/63571

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