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Behavioural reactivity of ewes and lambs during partial and total social isolation

By S. Barnard, L. R. Matthews, S. Messori, M. P. Vulpiani, N. Ferri

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This work investigated the differences in the reactivity of Sarda (primiparous n=18, multiparous n=17) and Dorset (multiparous n=8) breeds of sheep and their singleton lambs to two challenging test situations involving a mother-lamb partial separation test and an isolation test. Non-parametric analysis used single behavioural variables and fear scores to evaluate the effect of parity, sex of lambs, and the association between mother-lamb behaviour. Amongst ewes, Dorset were characterised by a more calm temperament while Sarda (especially primiparous ewes) were more active in their response to challenge (i.e. more attempts to escape). As with their dams, lambs reflected to a certain extent this divergence and overall during isolation lamb fear score was on average significantly higher than dams. Correlations between measures of behavioural reactivity across tests were carried out to search for predictive measures of fear. A very strong correlation emerged linking vocalisation to locomotor activity. Vocalisation could be a good candidate as predictor factor of an active reaction of sheep to a fearful situation.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 163
Pages 89-97
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.11.016
Language English
Author Address Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell'Abruzzo e del Molise 'G. Caporale', Campo Boario, 64100 Teramo,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animals
  4. Animal science
  5. Bovidae
  6. Breeding
  7. Dog Breeds
  8. Effect
  9. Lambs
  10. Mammals
  11. peer-reviewed
  12. predictions
  13. Ruminants
  14. Sheep
  15. temperament
  16. ungulates
  17. vertebrates
  18. Wool producing animals
  1. peer-reviewed