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Author (up) Ahrendt, L.P.; Christensen, J.W.; Ladewig, J.
Title The ability of horses to learn an instrumental task through social observation Type Abstract
Year 2012 Publication Applied Animal Behaviour Science Abbreviated Journal Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.
Volume 139 Issue 1 Pages 105-113
Keywords Horse; Social learning; Social interaction; Instrumental task; Investigative behaviour; Aggression
Abstract The ability of horses to learn through social observation may ease the implementation of new management systems, because the use of automatic feeders etc. by naive horses could be facilitated by observation of experienced horses. However, previous studies found no documentation for observational learning abilities in horses. This study aimed to investigate the ability of horses to learn an instrumental task from a familiar conspecific when social interaction was allowed during the demonstration. Two similar experiments were performed. In the first experiment, Observer horses (n=11) participated in ten successive demonstrations, where a trained Demonstrator opened an operant device by pushing a sliding lid aside with the muzzle in order to obtain a food reward. Immediately after the demonstrations the Observer horses were given the opportunity to operate the device alone. Control horses (n=11) were aware that the device contained food but were presented to the operant device without demonstration of the task. The learning criterion was at least two openings. Accomplishment of and latency to accomplish the learning criterion, and investigative behaviour towards the operant device were recorded. Five Observers and one Control, out of the eleven horses in each treatment group, accomplished the learning criterion. Even though this presents a high odds ratio (OR) in favour of the Observer treatment (OR=7.6), there was no significant difference between the treatment groups (P=0.15). Analysis of investigative behaviour showed, however, that the demonstrations increased the motivation of the Observer horses to investigate the device. Subsequently, a similar experiment was performed in a practical setting with 44 test horses (mixed age, gender and breed). We used the same operant device and the same number and type of demonstrations, although the horses were held on a loose rope to minimise aggression. In this second experiment, six of 23 Observer horses and five of 21 Control horses learned the instrumental task, representing no influence of the demonstration. Thus, this study did not demonstrate an ability of horses to learn an instrumental task through observation.
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ISSN 0168-1591 ISBN Medium
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Call Number Equine Behaviour @ team @ S0168-1591(12)00087-1 Serial 5773
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