||The influence of recipient mares in commercial embryo transfer (ET) programs
on behavior of the ET foals is a matter of great interest and controversial discussion.
Presently, no interdisciplinary ethological and reproductive studies on this topic exist.
However, empirical experience suggests that behavioral traits of the recipient mare do not
influence those of the foal, thus implying a predominantly genetic origin of a horse“s basic
character. Aim: The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of recipient
mares on behavioural traits of their ET products.
Materials and Methods: Based on records of the embryo transfer program in Warmblood
horses since 1990 at the Swiss National Stud, questionnaires concerning behavior,
stereotypies and mother-foal-relationship were designed and completed by telephone
interview: 18 scientifically assessed questions provided the basis for a linear description
(Equine Personality Assessment Questionnaire, Lloyd et al., 2007). They were grouped in a)
emotivity, b) social motivation, c) general level of activity, d) stress behavior, e) learning
capacity and f) reactions towards humans. Questionnaires were designed for the owners of the
ET offspring (minimum of three years of age), the sires, donor mares and the recipient mares.
Out of 200 questionnaires, 25 complete ET families have emerged so far and were analysed.
All genetic parents were Warmblood horses, as were 23 of the recipient mares, the other two
were Franches-Montagnes horses.
Results: Comparing the mean values of the four groups (genetic dam and sire, recipient mare
and ET product), significant differences were found for the parameters emotivity (sires lower,
p<0.001), learning behaviour (recipient mares lower, p<0.05) and activity (recipient mares
lower, p<0.05). With only one exception, the multiple variable regression analysis found no
significant influence of the recipient mare on the ET product. The only significant effect
observed, was that of the social motivation of the recipient mare on the learning capacity of
the ET offspring (r2= -0.421, p<0.05). In contrast, numerous significant effects of behavioural
traits of the genetic dams and sires on their ET offspring (10 and 8, respectively) were
Conclusions: These preliminary results confirm field observations that the influence of the
recipient mare does not play an important role in character development of the ET offspring.
However, the investigated parameters indicate that the behavioural traits of the genetic parents
appear to have a strong influence on the offspring”s behaviour.. This study model promises
new achievements in the evaluation of genetic and environmental effects on the behavior of a
Lloyd, AS, Martin, JE, Bornett-Gauci, HLI, Wilkinson, RG (2007). Evaluation of a novel
method of horse personality asses