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Journal: Applied animal behaviour science


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 < 0.001), where middle-aged individuals were most likely to be dominant. These results are the first to link behavioural predictors to body condition and obesity status in horses and should prompt the future consideration of behavioural and social factors when evaluating clinical disease risk in group-living animals.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Horse, Wild horse, Equus, Equidae, Donkey, Pony, Domestication of the horse


In recent years there has been a growing research interest in the field of animal emotion. But there is still little agreement about whether and how the word “emotion” should be defined for use in the context of non-human species. Here, we make a distinction between descriptive and prescriptive definitions. Descriptive definitions delineate the ways in which the word emotion is used in everyday life. Prescriptive definitions are used to pick out the set of events that scientific theories of emotion purport to explain. Picking out three prescriptive definitions, we show that the different ways in which emotions are defined correspond to processes that are distributed differentially across the animal kingdom. We propose that these definitions provide a useful starting point for investigating the varying emotional capacities of a wide range of animals, providing a basis for a new, comparative science of emotion.


It is unknown how premature maternal separation affects the responses of kittens to potentially stressful events. In the United States, thousands of kittens are orphaned each year due to death of the queen, neglect, or accidental separation by humans. Neonatal mammals emit distress calls and increase locomotion when socially isolated, suggesting that being separated from the nest is a stressful event. Increased vocalization and activity of isolated neonates may aid maternal retrieval or relocation of the nest. In the current study, we assessed the effects of early maternal separation on later vocalizations and activity of 49 kittens (28 orphaned, 21 mother-reared; 23 female, 26 male) from 11 litters (5 mothered, 6 orphaned) during an open field test when the kittens were one and three weeks of age. We conducted a total of 79 trials. Each kitten was placed individually in a 1-meter diameter pen away from the rest of the litter and/or mother for two minutes. The number of calls emitted and total activity (in seconds) were recorded for each kitten on every trial. We assessed the effects of age, sex, orphan status, and interactions between orphan status with sex and age on activity and vocalizations. Orphaned kittens were more active than mother-reared kittens at both times (t(46) = 4.62, p < 0.001), with an interaction between age and orphan status (t(28) = -2.84, p = 0.008). Orphaned kittens emitted more vocalizations at both times (Z = 2.38, p = 0.018), with an interaction between age and orphan status (Z = -3.18, p = 0.001). Orphaned kittens showed increased activity and vocalizations in response to a brief nest separation compared to mother-reared kittens. This effect was still present after over two weeks of maternal separation, suggesting that maternal separation may lead to long-term changes in stress responses. Future research should explore if such effects of maternal separation are present in older kittens or adult cats.


Qualities of the light environment are important for good welfare in a number of species. In chickens, UVA light is visible and may facilitate flock interactions. UVB wavelengths promote endogenous vitamin D synthesis, which could support the rapid skeletal development of broiler chickens. The aim of the study was to investigate the impacts of Ultraviolet wavelengths (UV) on welfare indicators in broiler chickens. Day-old Ross 308 birds reared under commercially representative conditions were randomly assigned to one of three lighting treatments: A) White Light Emitting Diode (LED) and supplementary UVA LED lighting (18-hour photoperiod); B) White LED with supplementary UVA and UVB fluorescent lighting providing 30 micro watts/cm2 UVB at bird level (on for 8 h of the total photoperiod to avoid over-exposure of UVB); C) White LED control group, representative of farm conditions (18-hour photoperiod). Welfare indicators measured were; feather condition (day 24, n = 546), tonic immobility duration (day 29, n = 302), and gait quality, using the Bristol Gait Score (day 31, n = 293). Feather condition was improved in male broilers in the UVA treatment (A), compared to the control treatment ©. Birds in the UVA treatment had shorter tonic immobility durations compared to the control treatment ©, suggesting lower fearfulness. Broilers reared in UVA (A) and UVA + UVB (B) had better Bristol Gait Scores compared to the control ©. Together these results suggest UV may be beneficial for broiler chicken welfare. While treatment A and B both provided UVA, the improvements in welfare indicators were not consistent, which may be due to exposure time-dependent beneficial effects of UVA. The modification of commercial lighting regimes to incorporate UVA wavelengths for indoor-reared broiler chickens would be an achievable change with significant positive impacts on bird welfare.


When measuring animals' valenced behavioural responses to stimuli, the Conditioned Place Preference (CPP) test goes a step further than many approach-based and avoidance-based tests by establishing whether a learned preference for, or aversion to, the location in which the stimulus was encountered can be generated. We designed a novel, four-chambered CPP test to extend the capability of the usual CPP paradigm to provide information on four key features of animals' affective responses: valence, scale, persistence and generalization. Using this test, we investigated the affective responses of domestic chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) to four potentially aversive stimuli: 1. Puffs of air; 2. Sight of (robotic) snake; 3. Sprays of water; 4. Sound of conspecific alarm calls. We found conditioned avoidance of locations associated with the air puffs and water sprays (Friedman’s χ2(3) = 13.323 p > .005; χ2(3) = 14.235 p > .005), but not with the snake and alarm calls. The scale of the learned avoidance was similar for the air puff and water spray stimuli, but persistence and generalization differed. We conclude that the four chambered CPP test can have a valuable role to play in making multi-feature measurements of stimulus-generated affective responses, and we highlight the value of such measurements for improving our understanding of the structure of affect in chickens and other animals.


There has been increased recognition of the 3Rs in laboratory animal management over the last decade, including improvements in animal handling and housing. For example, positive reinforcement is now more widely used to encourage primates to cooperate with husbandry procedures, and improved enclosure design allows housing in social groups with opportunity to escape and avoid other primates and humans. Both practices have become gold standards in captive primate care resulting in improved health and behavioural outcomes. However, training individuals and social housing may be perceived as incompatible, and so it is important to share protocols, their outcomes and suggestions for planning and improvements for future uptake. Here we present a protocol with link to video for training rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) housed in single-male - multi-female breeding groups to sit at individual stations in the social enclosure. Our aim was that the monkeys could take part in welfare-related cognitive assessments without the need for removal from the group or interference by group members. To do this we required most individuals in a group to sit by individual stations at the same time. Most of the training was conducted by a single trainer with occasional assistance from a second trainer depending on availability. We successfully trained 61/65 monkeys housed in groups of up to nine adults (plus infants and juveniles) to sit by their individual stationing tools for >30 s. Males successfully trained on average within 30 min (2 training sessions); females trained on average in 1 h 52 min ± 13min (7.44 sessions), with rank (high, mid, low) affecting the number of sessions required. On average, dominant females trained in 1 h 26 min ± 16 min (5.7 sessions), mid ranked females in 1 h 52 min ± 20min (7.45 sessions), and subordinate females took 2 h 44 min ± 36 min (10.9 sessions). Age, group size, reproductive status, temperament, and early maternal separation did not influence the number of sessions a monkey required to reach criterion. We hope this protocol will be useful for facilities worldwide looking to house their animals in naturalistic social groups without impacting on animal husbandry and management.

Concepts: Human, Macaque, Primate, Rhesus Macaque, Monkeys in space, Monkey, Old World monkey, Cercopithecine monkeys


Mice used in biomedical research should have pain reduced to an absolute minimum through refinement of procedures or by the provision of appropriate analgesia. Vasectomy is a common and potentially painful surgical procedure carried out on male mice to facilitate the production of genetically modified mice. The aim of our study was to determine if 0.05 mg/kg buprenorphine would ameliorate pain associated changes following abdominal vasectomy and to determine if the mouse grimace scale is an appropriate tool for the assessment of pain in this model. Eight male CBA mice underwent abdominal vasectomy as part of a genetically modified mouse-breeding programme. Here we assessed pain using a previously validated behaviour-based method and the mouse grimace scale. All mice received buprenorphine (0.05 mg/kg s.c.) pre-surgery. Behaviour and grimace scores were compared between baseline (pre-surgery), 30 min, 5 h, 24 h and 25 h post surgery. Following 24 h post-op, all mice were administered 5 mg/kg meloxicam (s.c.) as additional analgesia. Significant increases in specific pain behaviours and mouse grimace scale score were found 30 min post surgery. At 5 h post surgery, scores were returning to baseline levels. Frequency of rearing was significantly decreased at both 30 min and 5 h post surgery compared to baseline, demonstrating a longer lasting change in normal exploratory behaviour. Buprenorphine (0.05 mg/kg) was ineffective at ameliorating these pain-associated changes in CBA mice and should be considered inadequate at this dose. By 24 h post surgery, pain associated behaviours, grimace scale and rearing had all returned to baseline levels. There was no change in pain behaviours or MGS following administration of meloxicam indicating that an additional dose of meloxicam does not appear to offer benefit at this point. Using the mouse grimace scale to assess pain in mice, appeared to be effective in the immediate post vasectomy period in CBA mice demonstrating the same duration of increased score as the pain associated behaviours.

Concepts: Gene, Surgery, Opioid, Rat, Rodent, Mouse, Mice


Cross-sucking, or non-nutritive sucking on the bodies of littermates, is commonly observed in early-weaned animals. This behavior has been well-documented in production animals, which are often separated from their mothers before weaning. The behavior is less well-understood in other domestic species, such as cats (Felis catus), that can be orphaned due to neglect, maternal death, or accidental separation. Anecdotally, cross-sucking can cause injuries in kittens, sometimes severe enough to warrant euthanasia. To our knowledge, this is the first detailed study of this behavior in domestic cats. We conducted a survey of caretakers (N = 407) of kittens (< 60 days old) with the goal of identifying characteristics of individual kittens, litters, the environment, and husbandry that might be associated with the presence of cross-sucking. The final data set, representing 1358 kittens, was comprised of 301 litters experiencing sucking and 106 litters not experiencing sucking behaviors. Almost all of the kittens represented in the survey (91%) were orphaned. Results suggested that being orphaned (X2(1) = 42.64, p < 0.001), bottle-fed (X2(2) = 40.32, p < 0.001), younger (t(405) = 3.48 p < 0.001), separated earlier from the mother (t(376) = 3.10, p = 0.002), and being in an all-male litter (X2(2) = 7.13, p = 0.03) increased the risks of cross-sucking. Male kittens also were more likely to be recipients of sucking behavior (X2(1) = 32.30, p < 0.001). No clear associations between the environment or husbandry practices and the presence of sucking behavior were identified. Interruption and separation were the most frequently reported management strategies, but most kittens returned to sucking behavior when reunited. Cross-sucking is a frequently reported behavior problem in orphaned kittens that may indicate distress or poor welfare. Future research should focus on a better understanding of prevention and management strategies, and determination of the effects, if any, of cross-sucking as a kitten on adult cat outcomes or behavior.


Abnormal behavior occurs in a number of captive nonhuman primate species and is often used as an indicator of welfare. However, reported levels of abnormal behavior often vary across species, making general welfare judgments difficult. The purpose of this study was to assess differences in levels of abnormal behavior and associated risk factors across three species of Old World monkeys in order to identify similarities and differences across species. The subjects were 415 (109 females) cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis), 365 (181 females) rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), and 331 (187 females) baboons (Papio hamadryas) that had been singly-housed for 30-120 days. A 5-min observation using one-zero sampling recorded the presence or absence of abnormal behavior for each animal. Macaques exhibited higher levels of abnormal behavior than baboons (29% vs. 14%; χ2(1) = 24.849, p < 0.001), but there was no difference between macaque species (30% vs. 28%; χ2(1) = 0.263, p = 0.608). Risk factors also varied. Overall, males exhibited greater levels of motor stereotypies (b = 0.425, p < 0.05), females greater levels of abnormal appetitive behavior (b = 1.703, p < 0.05), and older animals greater levels of self-directed behavior (b = 0.065, p < 0.05). However, macaques exhibited greater levels of motor stereotypy (b = 2.527, p < 0.001) and self-directed behavior (b = 2.968, p < 0.005) than did baboons. There was also a genus × sex interaction for abnormal appetitive behavior (b = -2.379, p < 0.01) and a genus × age interaction for motor stereotypy (b = -0.167, p < 0.05). These results demonstrate that differences in abnormal behavior exist across closely-related primate species. Therefore, a single species cannot be used generally as a model for abnormal behavior or animal welfare.

Concepts: Macaque, Primate, Rhesus Macaque, Old World monkey, Baboon, Cercopithecine monkeys, Hamadryas Baboon, Cercopithecinae