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Dominance rank is associated with body condition in outdoor-living domestic horses ( Equus caballus)

By S. L. Giles, C. J. Nicol, P. A. Harris, S. A. Rands

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The aim of our study was to explore the association between dominance rank and body condition in outdoor group-living domestic horses, Equus caballus. Social interactions were recorded using a video camera during a feeding test, applied to 203 horses in 42 herds. Dominance rank was assigned to 194 individuals. The outcome variable body condition score (BCS) was recorded using a 9-point scale. The variables age and height were recorded and considered as potential confounders or effect modifiers. Results were analysed using multivariable linear and logistic regression techniques, controlling for herd group as a random effect. More dominant ( p=0.001) individuals generally had a higher body condition score ( p=0.001) and this association was entirely independent of age and height. In addition, a greater proportion of dominant individuals fell into the obese category (BCS ≥7/9, p=0.005). There were more displacement encounters and a greater level of interactivity in herds that had less variation in age and height, lending strength to the hypothesis that phenotypic variation may aid cohesion in group-living species. In addition there was a strong quadratic relationship between age and dominance rank ( p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 166
Pages 71-79
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.02.019
Language English
Author Address University of Bristol, School of Veterinary Science, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animals
  4. Body condition
  5. Clinical aspects
  6. Feeding
  7. Genes
  8. Horses
  9. Interactions
  10. Mammals
  11. obesity
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. phenotypes
  14. predictions
  15. Social behavior
  16. sociology
  17. Techniques
  18. ungulates
  19. variation
  20. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed