Social Communication and Equine Reproductive Success

Domestic horses’ reproductive efficiency is often lower than that of feral horses. Does modern husbandry play a role?

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By Vincent Gerber, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ECEIM, WEVA Treasurer

Domestic horses’ reproductive efficiency is often lower than that of horses living in feral herds. In these situations stallions typically live with mares in harem bands, with other stallions in bachelor bands, or occasionally in mixed-sex transitional bands.

Modern husbandry, breeding practices, and social structures of domestic horses differ greatly from natural conditions. For instance, we tend to keep domestic stallions isolated from mares and other horses, with live matings taking place “in-hand” and semen collection carried out using a phantom and artificial vagina. This modern breeding management has resulted in a wide disparity between domestic horses’ sexual behaviour and that of their feral counterparts, where mate-choice systems have evolved in natural conditions.

In most mammal species, the females choose their mates, as they’re the ones that usually invest the most concerning reproduction and parental investment. This also seems to be the case in horses

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