A Review Of The Purpose Domestication Biology Essay


1. History And Background

As far in the past as 3000 BC, dogs, sheep and cattle were already domesticated. People also began to tame horses and first steps were taken where current Russia and North-East Asia are located nowadays. Although, first contact between human and horse was long before domestication the purpose was only to hunt and supply food. Nevertheless, with time people started to appreciate horses speed and hard work. This is when they began to use them for work. For these reasons people were forced to try to understand horses and learn more about their behaviour.

Time went by and people were becoming more civilised. With this progress they paid less attention to animals concentrating on different matters. They did not try to understand behaviour of animals. It happened, and it still does, that people who spent a lot of time with animals did not understand their basic needs; they did not want to and did not know how to read basic signals sent by them. Further, signals were wrongly interpreted if at all. Yet, the base of relationship between human and animal should be based on ability to communicate.

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Excellent example, of how well some people were able to use their knowledge to understand horses' behaviour are Indians. Thanks to their approach to live, which was having respect to each living being, they were able to catch and break wild horse using simple, basic methods. Because Indians were capable of understanding horses, they used this knowledge to read their signals and needs. Hence, they could predict horses' behaviour and respond to it.

It has been observed that people who are not educated but with high sense of sensibility are able to appreciate animals much better than people who are educated, whose attitude is typically physical. They do not understand animals and do not try or simply do not want to. Nevertheless, there are people who are interested in animal psychology. They make attempts to understand them. These people study behaviour of animals. They are able to notice differences in behaviour according to external factors.

2. Basics Of Behaviourism: Animals From Outside In

Term behaviour explains interactions between organism and its environment. It can be described as being conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary. In animals, behaviour depends on information received from the environment which then is maintained by the nervous and endocrine systems. The complexity of the behaviour of an organism is related to the complexity of its nervous system.

Behavioural patterns may vary greatly. They may be very stable- no variations or very elastic- changes dependant on hormones, behaviour or learning. Behavioural studies are carried from physiological or behavioural point of view. Both ways of observations fulfil one another and both are essential in order to fully understand animals (Ville 1987).

In early days of behaviourism, however, behaviourists believed that basic concepts such as reward, punishment, positive and negative reinforcements explained everything about animals, who were basically just stimulus- response mechanisms. According to Skinner (1971) all you needed to study was behaviour. There was no need to speculate what was inside a person's or animal's head because there was no measure to comprehend all the stuff inside the black box- intelligence, emotions, motives. The black box was off-limits. Only behaviour could be measure, hence, only behaviour could be studied (Skinner 1971).

For the behaviourists this was no great loss, since, according to them, environment was the only thing that mattered.

Some animal behaviourists took this idea to the extreme by teaching that animals did not even have emotions or intelligence. Animals only had behaviour which was shaped by mentioned above rewards, punishments, and positive and negative reinforcements from the environment. In this way, behaviourists did not focus what was inside black box. The brain is pretty powerful, and a person whose brain is not working right knows just how powerful. But back in the 1970s, when behaviourism was getting started to be discovered, people believed that everything was controlled by the environment.

3. Horses As Herd Animals: The Concept Of Dominance, Dominance Hierarchy And Social Structure

Horses are extremely social herd animals that favour living in a group.

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In the wild, new born foals must follow herd in order to survive. Mother's company is all what the new born needs in the first few days of its live. With time, however, encouraged by social instincts foal begins to make acquaintance with the other members of the group, who, shortly, become its family. Growing up foal tighten bond with the herd while losing with its mother (Jaworski, 1998).

Like all living being, equine social behaviour appeared in order to aid in a species survival. For instance, in the wild, if a horse was alone, there would be much greater possibility it could be eaten or attacked by a predator. Staying in a group means that animals have more of a chance to survive. Further, in a case of danger, there is a greater likelihood it would be noticed quicker by twenty horses than just one.

There also is a dominance hierarchy in any herd. Horses will establish a pecking order, which is a hierarchical system of social organization in animals. It was first established by Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1921 to describe behaviour of poultry and, hence, establish dominance of birds. It has been developed for the purpose of maintaining which herd individual influences the behaviour of others, eats and drinks first, and so forth.

The concept of dominance has given insight into understanding of social structure in animals. Over the past three decades, however, widespread application of concepts and definitions of dominance have been introduced, leading to an ongoing debate about the usefulness and meaning of the concept (Drews 1993). Not only the wide application, but also the lack of establishing a definition of dominance that fulfils the requirements of a good definition, have caused difficulty in any systematic use of the concept (Smith). Disapprovals concerned on one description of dominance are not essentially relevant to other descriptions. Existing descriptions may be structural or functional, refer to roles or to agonistic behaviour, regard dominance as a property of individual or as an attribute of dyadic encounters, concentrate on aggression or on the lack of it, and be based either on theoretical constructs or on observable behaviour (Drews 1993).

In general, what is agreed as dominance is the state of having high social status relative to other individuals, who react submissively to dominant individuals.

4. Personality And Study Approach

Personality study is a fast developing field of research nowadays. It includes both human and nonhuman-animals, which are already classified as one category. According to Pervin and John (1997) those characteristics that account for consistent patterns of feeling, thinking and behaving define personality. Since, there are limits to the application of this definition to animals, as the measurement of how animals think and feel is difficult, if not possible, animals' personality research has therefore focused on the assessment of observed behaviour in order to demonstrate individual differences (Lloyd, 2008). This is where Mills' (1998) theory seems to suit much better. He states that personality relies on the biological based behavioural tendencies of an individual. He believes that personality describes relatively stable, internal factors that cause an animal's behaviour constant from one time to another. Further, this behaviour would vary from the behaviour that other individuals within the same species would demonstrate in the same or comparable situation (Child, 1968). Additionally, consistent behaviours (habits) which are correlated together form traits which describe the personality of an individual (Zuckerman, 1991). Studies concentrating on identifying individual descriptive factors in nonhuman species are very broad. They start with research done on octopus (Mather and Anderson 1993), pig (Forkman et al. 1995) and finish on with gorilla (Gold and Maple 1994). Theoretically any sequence of measurements or tests can be employed to identify or make a distinction among individuals to establish individual uniqueness.

Current research done on horses' personality have investigated individual differences via developing a variety of behaviour tests (Le Scolan et al., 1997; Wolff et al., 1997; Visser et al., 2001) and via applying rating system delivered by stable workers (Anderson et al., 1999; Momozawa et al., 2005).

5. Aim Of The Study

The purpose of the experiment was to test whether dominance in a given herd of horses depends on individuals's personality, age and/or strength. There were two different groups of horses taken into consideration. The first one was consisted of 23 females (age between 1 year to 20 years old) with 7 foals. Second group contained 40 male horses (age between 2 to 10 years old). Two groups were then compared and conclusions were made. It appeared that in both cases the dominant individual was the heaviest (checked body weight for each member of two herds), oldest and with the strongest character (data provided by the breeder).

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Dyadic interactions were performed to establish dominance hierarchy in a group of females. This was done using David's score equations. Further, statistical analyses showed that there was a highly significant negative correlation between mean body mass and dominance rank (............................). Dominance rank position calculated from dyads interactions was also negatively correlated with age (..................................). Thus, the most dominant animals within herds tended to be the oldest and largest.


1. Silesian Mares

1.1. Animals

30 Silesians female horses with 5 foals (Table 1), bred in Ryszard Szorc Stud and Stallion Stud in Książ, were used in the study. Animals were all in good health, they knew each other very well and they did not show any gregariousness. Before the experiment, they lived outdoors during summer and indoors during winter. They were individually identified with numbers written on either their necks or shoulders. During the experiment as well as after, animals were kept on the familiar to them paddock (Figure 1). They had an access to water and grazing at all times.

1.2. Test area

The test area was located at the field (Figure 2) in Plawna Gorna (Poland). The size was 5 hectares. Pasture was separated by a river. A bridge with a busy road crossed the field roughly in the middle. Shaded area for animals was provided by a forest as well as bushes. One part of paddock was flat whereas the other was hilly.

From one side paddock neighboured with an additional pasture. This field was also inhabited by a herd of horses. Both packs of horses interacted with each other from time to time. The opposite side of the field had an access to the road which was not particularly busy.

1.3. Observation

Behavioural observations were carried out on all 35 horses from 17 September 2009 to 23 September 2009. They were performed at different hours on each observation day. A 10- min acclimatisation period was allowed to pass before observations began, with the aim of reducing the observer effect (Martin and Bateson, 1993). Behavioural data were collected using scan sampling and continuous recording methods (Martin and Bateson, 1993) (Table 3). The structure and hierarchy of the whole herd was established. The study was constructed using 15 behaviourally defined adjectives. An ethogram (Table...) was developed combining behavioural definitions from published works (citation needed). The ethogram included measures of social behaviour, activity, aggression and feeding behaviour (Lloyd, 2006). Changes in behaviour patterns, weather condition and interaction between members of the social group were recorded every minute.

1.4. Experiment

The experiment took place at the pasture from 24 September 2009 to 27 September 2009. To stimulate the exercise horses were provided with a bucket of carrots, apples and/or oats.

Two horses were selected each time the experiment took place. The animals were not to be selected randomly as the stimulation had to be done between all members of the herd (Table 2). Each pair was lead away from the herd by a helper and once at appropriate distance (20 m) the horses were released and provided with a bucket of treats. The observer was at least 1 m away from tested animals.

Observations were made until the bucket was empty and the two tested horses returned freely to the group. In addition to behaviour patterns, duration of interaction between animals was recorded.

The number of interactions between dyads had not to be considerably different otherwise the Pij values would not be wholly appropriate for ranking group members (David 1988; de Vries 1998). In this case, each individual interacted with each member of the group. All foals were excluded from the study.

1.5. Calculation of dominance score

Assigning the dominance scores for each horse was calculated using the David's score model produced by Gammell et al (2003). The calculations were based on win/loss asymmetries between dyad members.

The amount of wins by individual i in his interactions with another individual j (Pij) is the number of times that i defeats j (αij) divided by the total number of interactions between i and j (nij), i.e. Pij= αij/nij (Gammell, 2003). The proportion of losses by i in interactions with j, Pji=1–Pij. If nij=0 then Pij=0 and Pji=0 (David 1988; de Vries 1998). DS for each member, i, of a group is calculated with the formula:

DS=w+w2- l- l2

where w represents the sum of i's Pij values, w2 represents the summed w values (weighted by the appropriate Pij values) of those individuals with which i interacted, l represents the sum of i's Pji values and l2 represents the summed l values (weighted by the appropriate Pji values) of those individuals with which i interacted (David 1988; de Vries 1998).

1.6. Statistical analyses

2. Huzul Mares

2.1. Animals

The observations were carried out on 3 Hucul mares and 1 Polish horse mare. The study was established in a riding centre ‘Jaskolka' in Poland. Two horses were 3 years old- Pralina and Pergola and the other two were 4 years old- Greta and Gora (Table 4). All animals were in good health condition. The recognition of the animals was based on the markings they displayed on their coats as well as colouration of their hairy heel pasterns.

All four horses had known each other for a period of 2 years before the study took place. The pack was naturally divided into two groups; each pair did not interact with the other.

Horses worked in riding lessons for 5- 10 hours per week.

The horses were maintained on pasture during the summer and in the stable in winter, where each horse was supplied with an individual box and fed oats and hay. Pens were separated from each other by metal hurdles so that the horses could see all the other animals in the barn and interact with their neighbours (sniffing, licking, biting or grooming, etc.) (Lansade et al 2008).

During the study period the mares were kept at the pasture and were supplied with water and grazing at all times.

2.2. Observation area

The test area was located at the hilly paddock. The shape was rectangular and the size was 500 metres square. One of the longer sides of the pasture neighboured with a supplementary filed where horses were also kept. All horses knew each other. One of the shorter walls of the paddock was joined with cultivation.

A rectangular shed with watering-place and hay served as a shelter from wind, rain and sun. It was located on the opposite wall to the cultivation area.

There was no access to the road although there was a path separating the observation area from another field.

2.3. Observation

Behavioural observations were carried out from 12 September 2009 to 16 September 2009. An ethogram was design to indicate changes in behaviour. The ethogram contained social behaviou r, activity, aggression and feeding behaviour. Behavioural observations were based on one mare (focal animal) and the three remaining animals. Observations were maintained between 10 am and 5 pm on each observation day. A 10- min acclimatisation period was allocated before observation started. It reduced the observer effect on horses' behaviour. Behavioural data were collected using focal records. A total of 17 hours observations (day 1- 6 hours; day 2- 6 hours and day 3- 5 hours) were recorded over a period of several days.

2.4. Statistical analyses

3. Silesian Males

3.1. Animals

A total of 40 male horses kept at pasture at breeding industry in Pławna Dolna (Poland) where used in behavioural observations. All horses were privately owned and from a variety of backgrounds and breeding; some worked as carriage horses or were employed in riding lessons. Animals were in good health condition. All horses (except the stallion) were brought and introduced to the pasture as well as each other at the same time. At the beginning of behavioural observations animals did not know one another. Age ranged between 1 and 3 years with one exception- a dominant stallion (10 years old) that was introduced to the group in a later stage of the study. Breeds of all horses were known (.... Silesians, .........East-Friesians, .........Oldenburgs, ......Great-Poland horses). Animals were provided with free access to water and grazing.

In summer, horses were at pasture and in winter in stables. Housing conditions and handling methods while not at breeding industry were not known.

3.2. Observation area

Study was assessed on the pasture where animals were kept throughout the period of behavioural observations. The observation area consisted of a forest, a river, bushes and hills. The size of the observation field was approximately 25 hectares. Horses had a free access to water (river) at all time as well as grazing. The pasture included many paths and tracts to which human had a free access. There was a forest road in some places along the pasture. The road was not that busy since it was mainly used by farmers. Sheltered area was maintained by forest as well as bushes.

A pack of cattle had an open access to the field in a later stage of observations. It is not know whether all horses were familiarized with cattle before introducing at the pasture.

3.3. Observation

Behavioural observations took place from 02 September 2009 to 11 September 2009. Observations were based on developed ethogram constituting 15 behavioural definitions from published papers (citation needed). The ethogram contained social behaviour, activity, aggression and feeding behaviour. Behavioural observations were carried out on all 40 horses during the day only between 10 am and 3 pm. A 15- min familiarization period was maintained before observations to lower observer's effect on animals. Behavioural data was gained using focal, and scan sampling and continuous recording methods. Focal as well as scan periods were 10 minutes long. An allocated break between each observation was 5- 10 minutes. Observation periods were short so as to reduce the effects of observer fatigue (Martin and Bateson, 1993). A total of 9 day observations were recorded.