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Title: Studies on the feeding and social behaviour of domestic horses
Author: Francis-Smith, Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3481 983X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1979
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In this study some aspects of the behaviour of domestic horses which had previously received little attention were investigated. Documentation on the behaviour of horses falls into two broad categories; there are studies on populations of free -ranging horses and studies on domestic horses. The latter usually concentrate on one particular behaviour pattern whereas the former cover all aspects of the horses' behaviour. In the literature on domestic horses there was a lack of information on grazing behaviour and on the behaviour of mares and foals after the perinatal period and as a result it was decided to concentrate on these two aspects. In addition since most recordings are made by visual observation and experimental numbers are usually small it was felt that if a suitable grazing recorder could be designed it would improve the scope of studies on grazing behaviour. Mares and foals were observed from the first day after parturition until the foals were weaned. It was found that although the mares are very attentive towards their foals during the first few days after birth by the second week they showed little interest in their foals. The foals were responsible for maintaining contact with their dams and they also initiated all nursing activity. They nursed frequently but nursing time decreased as the foals grew older. All the foals ate their dams' faeces during the first few weeks of life and it was thought that by doing this the foals obtained bacteria necessary for the digestion of fibre. Weaning was a stressful event from which the foals appeared to recover quickly. Horses were observed at grass and while stalled. The feeding of supplementary hay to horses at grass was found to affect their eliminative behaviour patterns and caused them to excrete randomly in the field. In contrast, during the summer months, unsupplemented horses consistently excreted on the area; of ungrazed grass (roughs) and grazed areas of short grass (lawns) in preference to the roughs. Studies during periods of 24 hr. indicated that horses spend most of the day eating and that continuous periods of grazing behaviour lasting 6 hr are not unusual. Horses in a group grazed and rested at the same time as one another and resting behaviour was more likely to occur during the hours of darkness than during daylight. An electronic grazing recorder was designed and used successfully. This was the first serious attempt to invent a grazing recorder for horses and it is felt that it will have an important effect on future studies. The results obtained and their implications for the management of horses and for future research are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available