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Albright, J. D., Mohammed, H. O., Heleski, C. R., Wickens, C. L., & Houpt, K. A. (2009). Crib-biting in US horses: Breed predispositions and owner perceptions of aetiology. Equine Veterinary Journal, 41(5), 455–458.
Abstract: Reasons for performing study: Crib-biting is an equine stereotypy that may result in diseases such as colic. Certain breeds and management factors have been associated.
Objectives: To determine: breed prevalence of crib-biting in US horses; the likelihood that one horse learns to crib-bite from another; and owner perceptions of causal factors.
Methods: An initial postal survey queried the number and breed of crib-biting horses and if a horse began after being exposed to a horse with this habit. In a follow-up survey, a volunteer subset of owners was asked the number of affected and nonaffected horses of each breed and the extent of conspecific contact. The likelihood of crib-biting given breed and extent of contact was quantified using odds ratio (OR) and significance of the association was assessed using the Chi-squared test.
Results: Overall prevalence was 4.4%. Thoroughbreds were the breed most affected (13.3%). Approximately half of owners believed environmental factors predominantly cause the condition (54.4%) and crib-biting is learned by observation (48.8%). However, only 1.0% of horses became affected after being exposed to a crib-biter. The majority (86%) of horses was turned out in the same pasture with other horses and extent of contact with conspecifics was not statistically related to risk.
Conclusion: This is the first study to report breed prevalence for crib-biting in US horses. Thoroughbreds were the breed more likely to be affected. More owners believed either environmental conditions were a predominant cause or a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to the behaviour. Only a small number of horses reportedly began to crib-bite after being exposed to an affected individual, but approximately half of owners considered it to be a learned behaviour; most owners did not isolate affected horses.
Potential relevance: Genetic predisposition, not just intensive management conditions and surroundings, may be a factor in the high crib-biting prevalence in some breeds, and warrants further investigation. Little evidence exists to suggest horses learn the behaviour from other horses, and isolation may cause unnecessary stress.
Keywords: HORSE; BEHAVIOUR; CRIB-BITING; BREED PREVALENCE; LEARNING
Bachmann, I., Bernasconi, P., Herrmann, R., Weishaupt, M. A., & Stauffacher, M. (2003). Behavioural and physiological responses to an acute stressor in crib-biting and control horses. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 82(4), 297–311.
Abstract: The responses of eleven pairs of crib-biting and non-crib-biting horses (controls) to an arousal-inducing stimulus were studied. Video-observation of the horses revealed that crib-biting horses spent between 10.4 and 64.7% of their stabling time performing the stereotypy. During the first 2 days of an experimental period, the horses were conditioned to receive food from a special bucket. On the third day the food bucket was presented, but the horses were not allowed to feed. Arousal behaviour and crib-biting intensity as well as plasma cortisol concentration, heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) were recorded at rest, and during and after presentation of the food stimulus. The stimulus induced a significant increase of HR and arousal behaviour in crib-biters and in controls, whereas the crib-biting frequency decreased. Power spectral analysis of the HRV revealed significant differences between crib-biters and controls at rest: crib-biters had a lower vagal tone (high frequency component, HF) and a higher sympathetic tone (low frequency component, LF) than controls. The lower basal parasympathetic activity might be an indication why crib-biting horses, in contrast to the controls, showed neither a significant decrease of the HF component during presentation of the food stimulus nor an increase of the HF component after presentation. Thus, there might be differences in the tuning of the autonomous nervous system and of the stress reactivity in crib-biting and in control horses. The results suggest that the crib-biting horses are more stress sensitive and physiologically and psychologically less flexible than the control horses.
Keywords: Horse welfare; Stereotypies; Crib-biting; Pituitary-adrenocortical axis; Sympatho-adrenomedullar axis; Stress response; Stress sensibility
Hothersall, B., & Nicol, C. (2009). Role of Diet and Feeding in Normal and Stereotypic Behaviors in Horses. Clinical Nutrition, 25(1), 167–181.
Abstract: This article reviews the effects of diet on equine feeding behavior and feeding patterns, before considering the evidence that diet affects reactivity in horses. A growing body of work suggests that fat- and fiber-based diets may result in calmer patterns of behavior, and possible mechanisms that may underpin these effects are discussed. In contrast, there is little evidence that herbal- or tryptophan-containing supplements influence equine behavior in any measurable way. The role of diet in the development of abnormal oral behaviors, particularly the oral stereotypy crib-biting, is also reviewed, and suggestions for future work are presented.
Keywords: Equine behavior; Diet; Crib-biting; Stereotypy; Weaning; Tryptophan; Insulin
Nagy, K., Bodó, G., Bárdos, G., Bánszky, N., & Kabai, P. (2010). Differences in temperament traits between crib-biting and control horses. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 122(1), 41–47.
Abstract: Recent studies have suggested that crib-biting in horses is associated with diminished capacity of learning or coping with stress. Such findings raise the question whether trainability, which is fundamentally important in practice, could also be affected by stereotypic behaviour. Trainability of a horse is difficult to assess in simple tests, however, it is reliably estimated by experienced riders. To assess trainability and other characteristics related to that, a questionnaire survey was conducted with the owners of 50 crib-biting and 50 control horses. Where possible, control horses were selected from the same establishment as crib-biters. Groups did not differ significantly regarding age, breed, gender, training level or usage. Principal component analysis revealed three main factors which can be labelled as [`]Anxiety', [`]Affability' and [`]Trainability'. The [`]Anxiety' factor consisted of the items [`]Nervousness', [`]Excitability', [`]Panic', [`]Inconsistent emotionality', [`]Vigilance', [`]Skittishness', and [`]Timidity'. [`]Affability' consisted of [`]Friendliness toward people', [`]Cooperation', [`]Docility' and [`]Friendliness toward horses'. [`]Trainability' involved [`]Concentration', [`]Trainability', [`]Memory', and [`]Perseverance'. Temperament traits were not affected by age, gender, breed or training level, but the usage of the horse and the presence of crib-biting behaviour had significant effects. Competition horses had lower level of [`]Anxiety' (p = 0.032) and higher level of [`]Trainability' (p = 0.068) than leisure horses. Crib-biting horses had significantly lower level of [`]Anxiety' than control horses (p < 0.001), while [`]Trainability' and [`]Affability' did not differ between groups (p = 0.823 and p = 0.543, respectively). Competition horses are more often exposed to novel environment and to frightening stimuli (e.g. colourful obstacles) than leisure horses and therefore might have also become more habituated to these types of stimuli. Coping with novel situation may be enhanced by defusing nervous behaviour by the more experienced riders of competition. Previous studies indicated crib-biting horses to be less reactive when challenged as compared to control horses. We suggest that the virtual calmness and lower nervousness of the crib-biting horses might be due to the passive coping style of these animals. [`]Affability' of horses might be more related to housing and management conditions than to crib-biting. Contrary to expectations, scores on [`]Trainability' had not coincided with the impaired learning of crib-biting horses reported in laboratory tests. However, previous behavioural tests on equine learning rarely had a direct relevance to the training abilities of the horses. Our results do not support crib-biting stereotypy to affect performance in training, which is a complex learning process involving cooperation and docility in the social environment.
Nagy, K., Bodó, G., Bárdos, G., Harnos, A., & Kabai, P. (2009). The effect of a feeding stress-test on the behaviour and heart rate variability of control and crib-biting horses (with or without inhibition). Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci., 121(2), 140–147.
Abstract: Crib-biting is a form of oral stereotypy affecting 4-5% of horses. Once fixed, crib-biting is difficult to eliminate by behaviour therapy, however, its performance can be inhibited by collar or surgery treatment (modified Forssell's procedure). Although surgical intervention is widespread, the effects on stress coping in horses have not been studied. In the present study we evaluated changes in behaviour response and heart rate variability in 9 control, 10 crib-biting, 10 collar and 11 surgically treated horses in a feeding stress-test, in which a feeding-bowl was placed in front but out of the reach of the horses, from which tidbits were given 3 times. We found that stress triggers high oral activity, mainly cribbing in crib-biting horses, elevates other forms of oral activities in the inhibited groups and does not affect oral activities of controls. Instead of performing oral activities, control horses tended to target an unavailable feeding-bowl by pawing or head-tossing. Changes in stress level were indistinguishable in controls and crib-biters as heart rate variability returned to baseline values in both groups. In contrast, horses inhibited to perform crib-biting showed elevated stress level throughout the test period. Our results suggest that crib-biting may develop to cope with stress, and such coping function diminishes when inhibited.
Keywords: Stereotypic behaviour; Crib-biting; Modified Forssell's operation; Cribbing collar; Equine welfare; Stress coping