Researchers Examine Horses’ Social Statuses

Dominant horses are typically older, larger, and less fearful than other horses in a herd, researchers found.

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While horses might not be on Facebook just yet, they do have their own kind of “social network,” says one French equine behavior researcher. The resulting relationships are solidly structured and highly dependent on the particular characteristics of the individuals in the group.

Dominant horses, for example, are typically older, larger, and less fearful than other horses in the group, said Mathilde Valenchon, PhD, of the Ecology, Physiology and Ethology Department at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, in Strasbourg, France.

But “central” horses—those that tend to create multiple “friendly” relationships within the herd—tend to be (perhaps obviously) more gregarious and sociable, she said.

“Our studies on different groups of horses in seminatural conditions indicate that personality differences do matter in developing the structure of a group,” Valenchon said. She presented her findings at the 2015 French Equine Ethology Day held April 9 in Saumur

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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