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Behaviour of bucking bulls prior to rodeo performances and relation to rodeo and human activities

By Christy Goldhawk, Guilherme Bond, Temple Grandin, Ed Pajor

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Abstract

There is a paucity of scientific evaluation of to substantiate concerns regarding the welfare of bulls used in bucking performances at rodeos. The current study followed 14 bulls during loading and holding in bucking chutes prior to release into an arena for performance at a large outdoor Canadian rodeo, typical to the North American region, to evaluate the welfare of bulls immediately prior to their performance in the rodeo. The study was conducted over a two year period. Bulls spent an average of 36.4±6.4 (mean±SD)min in the bucking chute (range 27–50min). During loading into the bucking chutes, balking was most common in areas with changes in direction of movement or reductions in space (P=0.01). Humans were present in 64.7% of the balking events. There was a positive correlation between the agonistic bull and handler behaviours during loading (rho=0.7, P=0.01). While being held in the bucking chutes prior to performance, 70% of the bulls showed no behaviours associated with aggression or escape, and when displayed, the majority of behaviours were displayed less than two to three times by individual bulls. Greater than half of the displays of escape or agonistic behaviours by bucking bulls occurred at the same time as human activities that were not inherent to the rodeo performance. Two bulls displayed bucking and/or rearing behaviour while being held in the bucking chutes and this behaviour was most common during the mounting phase where there are many cues that indicate the approaching performance. Chute behaviour scores were negatively correlated with number of exposures to the specific rodeo (rho=−0.8, P=0.01), indicating that bulls may become habituated to the rodeo environment. None of the factors evaluated were related to animal performance scores. In conclusion, few bulls show behavioural indicators of distress during the loading and holding period prior to performance at a large rodeo. There is a potential to improve the experience of the bulls as well as safety of both handlers and bulls, without affecting the quality of the arena performance, by modifying human behaviour to reduce balking during loading and improving the exposure to humans while bulls are held in the bucking chute.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 181
Pages 63-69
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.05.015
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Cattle
  3. performing animals
  4. Rodeo.
  5. welfare