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Equine stereotypic behaviors: causation, occurrence, and prevention

By A. Sarrafchi, H. J. Blokhuis

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There are strong suggestions that equine stereotypies are connected to poor welfare and a suboptimal management and/or stabling environment. Different forms of equine stereotypic behaviors have been described. Crib biting, weaving, and box walking are considered the most prevalent. Several studies have been conducted to establish links between the underlying causes and potential function of such behaviors. Both experimental and epidemiological studies have indicated management factors specifically feeding practices, housing conditions, and weaning method as crucial in the development of stereotypies in stabled horses. Some neurological studies on equine stereotypy demonstrated some forms of central nervous system dysfunction as being associated with the performance of stereotypic behaviors. Different researchers hypothesized that the functional significance of stereotypies is that they reduce stress in captive environments and should thus be considered as a coping mechanism. In contrast, the owner's perspective is often that a stereotypic horse has a "stable vice" that needs to be stopped, and different kinds of methods have been developed to control or regulate stereotypic behaviors. However, if the stress-reducing hypothesis is correct, controlling stereotypic behaviors particularly by physical and surgical approaches without addressing the underlying causes is of great concern to the horse's welfare. Although there is ongoing uncertainty about the exact function, the growing knowledge about causation should be applied: under all circumstances prevention is better than cure.

Publication Title Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Volume 8
Issue 5
Pages 386-394
ISBN/ISSN 1558-7878
DOI 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.068
Language English
Author Address IFM Biology, Linkoping University, SE-581 83 Linkoping,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abnormal behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal nutrition
  5. Animals
  6. Central nervous system
  7. Diseases and injuries of animals
  8. Epidemiology
  9. Feeding
  10. Feet
  11. Horses
  12. Humans
  13. Infants
  14. Mammals
  15. Men
  16. Methodologies
  17. nervous system
  18. peer-reviewed
  19. Pests.
  20. prevention
  21. Primates
  22. Research
  23. Stress
  24. surgery
  25. Techniques
  26. ungulates
  27. vertebrates
  28. weaning
  1. peer-reviewed