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Title: The mare-foal relationship and comparison of mares with foals and mares without foals grazing on Gower Commons
Author: Albiston, G.
Awarding Body: University College of Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1987
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The aim of the present study was to investigate certain aspects of behavioural ecology in a feral pony population living on commonland in the Gower peninsula, Sough Wales. In addition, the relationship between a mare and her foal was examined, with a discussion of foal development. The relationship between behaviour and the environment has been the subject of many studies. In the Gower populations on Pengwern and Fairwood Commons, changes in activity patterns were recorded between months of observations. Predicatably, time allocated grazing varied significantly between months as did time allocations to locomotion and social behaviour. The direction of variation was essentially towards an increase in time allocated to foraging during the winter months, with an associated increase in locomotion reflecting the necessity to forage at a variety of locations. It was suggested that forage availability plays a major role in determining behaviour patterns, for example spacing between individuals increased during the winter months when more time was allocated to foraging. A marked variation was recorded in the pattern of use of the available habitat, different areas of the habitat being exploited during different months. For each aspect of behaviour considered, possible variations between lactating and non-lactating females were examined. The pattern in variation was not consistent. The same considerations were applied to animals grazing on a tidal marsh. Essentially, variation in behaviour was similar to that recorded on the inland study sites. However, behaviour did not appear to be influenced to a significant level by the state of the tide. The constraints of the regular fluctuations in tide were discussed in relation to forage availability. Selection of forage plants by subjects was monitored on both study sites. Using information gained from a novel and unusual method, the energy intake per day was estimated for these subjects. It appeared the animals were able to satisfy the predicted energy requirements from grazing on the vegetation available. Development of selected individuals from birth to six months was monitored. Activity patterns showed marked changes during this period. Grazing became a more predominant activity with a corresponding decrease in suckling. Differences were recorded between sexes in time allocated to social interaction, male foals being involved in social interaction to a greater degree than females, for example in naso-nasal investigation, mutual grooming, group play and agonistic interactions. In connection with developmental changes in offspring, changes were recorded in the relationship between a mare and her foal. The distance between a mare and foal increased as the foal developed independence. Investment via suckling was examined. There was no difference recorded in investment in male and female foals, contrasting with the findings of other authors. Maternal experience did not appear to significantly influence the relationship between a mare and foal, as recorded in proximity and suckling. The effect of orphaning on a 100 day old foal was assessed. The data suggested the individual was capable of survival without its mother and its behaviour did not differ significantly from the other subjects of the same age.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available