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Influence of maternal experience on fear reactions in ewes

By M. Vierin, M. F. Bouissou

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The effects of maternal experience on fearfulness were assessed in ewes by comparing fear reactions of nulliparous (21 months old; N=19), primiparous (21 months old, one lamb reared; N=27) and multiparous (mean age: 4.5+or-1.2 years; one to four litters reared; N=17) Ile-de-France ewes. All ewes were individually subjected to three fear-eliciting situations in a familiar environment: isolation from conspecifics, surprise effect combined with presentation of a novel object, and presence of a human. No difference emerged between the three groups in the isolation test, all ewes being calm and non-fearful in this situation. In the surprise effect test, multiparous and primiparous ewes were both significantly less fearful than the nulliparous ewes. In the human presence test, multiparous ewes were significantly less fearful than nulliparous and primiparous ewes. A single maternal experience thus induced a clear reduction in fear reactions as measured in the surprise test but the combination of several maternal experiences and age appears necessary to reduce fear of human presence.

Date 2002
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 75
Issue 4
Pages 307-315
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(01)00201-5
Language English
Author Address UMR 6073, INRA-CNRS, Universite de Tours, Station de Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, 37380 Nouzilly, France.
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Age
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Fear
  6. Genetics
  7. Gestation
  8. Mammals
  9. Maternal effects
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. pregnancy
  12. Ruminants
  13. Sheep
  14. Stress
  15. Stress response
  1. peer-reviewed