Birth and the mother-infant relationship in the Camargue horse
Observations were made on five established horse herds in enclosures in the Camargue in France each spring between 1975 and 1977. Sixteen births involving twelve different mares were witnessed. Descriptions were recorded of the behaviour of each mare and foal at delivery and over the subsequent six hours, and data are presented from twelve independent mother-infant pairs. The mares did not leave the herd or seek shelter to give birth, and one third foaled in the daytime. Labour was short, but most mares lay for some minutes after delivery. All then groomed their foals, concentrating on the head and forequarters except during suckling. None of the mares ate either the amnion or the placenta, and all had resumed grazing within 3 hours. The foals started breathing and began attempts to rise immediately after deli very, lifting the head, then pushing up with the front legsand later the hind legs. All stood up within 1(^1)(_2) hours, walked soon after, and trotted or cantered within 4 hours. The foals investigated their surroundings and searched for the udder using vision and touch, and also appeared receptive to sound. All had suckled within 3(^1)(_2) hours, and started to follow by 4(^1)(_2) hours. Mares rejected all but their o\m foals, but foals did not discriminate between the mother and other herd members. Host foals were threatened, and one stolen temporarily, and their mothers therefore had to provide protection. The hierarchical herd structure meant that dominant mares could do so using threat or physical intervention, but subordinates could only try to lead their foals away; so while there were few behavioural differences between groups based on the mare's parity, or the sex of the foal, foals born to subordinate mares were more susceptible to attack or to becoming separated from the mother.