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Janczarek, I., Wisniewska, A., Chruszczewski, M. H., Tkaczyk, E., & Górecka-Bruzda, A. (2020). Social Behaviour of Horses in Response to Vocalisations of Predators. Animals, 10(2331).
Abstract: We tested the hypothesis that social defensive responses to the vocalisation of a predator still exist in horses. The recordings of a grey wolf, an Arabian leopard and a golden jackal were played to 20 Konik polski and Arabian mares. Durations of grazing, standing still, standing alert and the number of steps in walk and trot/canter were measured. In one-minute scans, the distances of the focal horse from the reference horse (DIST-RH) and from the nearest loudspeaker (DIST-LS) were approximated. The vocalisation of a leopard aroused the Arabians more than the Koniks (less grazing, stand-still and walk, more stand-alert and trotting/cantering). Koniks showed more relaxed behaviours to the leopard vocalisation (more grazing, stand-still and walk), but high alertness to the wolf playback (stand-alert, trotting/cantering). Spatial formation of the herd of Koniks showed tight grouping (lower DIST-RH) and maintaining distance from the potential threat (DIST-LS) in response to the wolf howling, while the Arabians approached the loudspeakers in linear herd formation when the leopard growls were played. Adult horses responded to potential predation by changing spatial group formations. This ability to apply a social strategy may be one of the explanations for the least number of horses among all hunted farm animal species.