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A study on validity and reliability of on-farm tests to measure human-animal relationship in horses and donkeys

By E. dalla Costa, F. Dai, L. A. M. Murray, S. Guazzetti, E. Canali, M. Minero

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The development and maintenance of a positive human-horse/donkey relationship is essential in order to decrease accidents and reduce negative states of equine welfare. In many animal species the reaction of animals to humans during specific behavioural tests is influenced by their past interaction and is linked to the level of fear felt in the presence of a human. The present research aims to assess whether a set of on-farm behavioural tests allow differentiation between horse facilities with excellent or sub-optimal human-animal relationship. Furthermore, we evaluated mid-term repeatability (3-month intervals), inter-observer reliability and on-farm feasibility of these behavioural tests in single stabled horses and in group housed donkeys. Eleven horse and eight donkey facilities ( N=313 adult horses; N=47 adult donkeys) were visited twice at 3-month intervals. Horse facilities were selected on the basis of reports of inspections on animal welfare conducted by competent local authorities; they were classified as "excellent" ( N=5) and "sub-optimal" ( N=6). Four observers, with no experience in assessing equine welfare and not aware of the a priori category of the facility, were trained to perform and score standardised human-equine behavioural tests: avoidance distance test (AD), voluntary animal approach test (VAA), forced human approach test (FHA), walking down side and tail tuck. All the behavioural tests carried out proved to be feasible in an on-farm environment. In spite of the fact that the reactions of horses were largely positive, those kept in facilities with "sub-optimal" relationship showed avoidance and aggressive behaviours more often when approached (GLMM P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 163
Pages 110-121
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.12.007
Language English
Author Address Universita degli Studi di Milano, Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie e Sanita Pubblica, Via Celoria 10, 20133 Milano,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Accidents
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Animals
  5. Animal science
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Differentiation
  8. Donkeys
  9. Feasibility
  10. Government
  11. Horses
  12. Human behavior
  13. Humans
  14. Mammals
  15. Men
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. Primates
  18. Production
  19. Psychiatry and psychology
  20. quality
  21. Relationships
  22. repeatability
  23. Social psychology and social anthropology
  24. ungulates
  25. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed