Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The younger the herd, The more "Horsing Around"

There was a recent study done on behavior of young horses in herds of different levels of maturity. Results showed that in a herd that is predominately horses under the age of 4, then there is more aggressive behavior and the young horses hangout with other young horses most of the time. If the herd is predominantly over 4 years old, the young horses had better behavior and didn't spend as much time with there peers. To test this, the scientists spend hours watching each situation and recorded how often the youngters bit, kicks, or rough-housed other horses. When there were more adult horses, the younger ones behaved better because the adults set an example. They were being taught a more proper way of social order in a herd.
At home, I have a herd of horses and i agree with this study's findings. When we add a new horse to the herd, it is taught how to act by the other horses. Either the newby makes a buddy that shows him the ropes, or he is bullied by the herd until he does what is expected of the adult leaders.
We can see this pattern in human groups as well. In a group of people that is mostly adults, the children are better behaved. In a group that children out number adults, it will most likely be a little more chaotic. For example, in a daycare setting, you can probably observe that it is quite hectic compared to one babysitter watching one or two kids. With a smaller ratio, the youngsters get more individual attention, and in turn behave better.

Posted by Jen Silva(3)


  1. It is fascinating to see how animals of all different species share similar group behaviors. Groups of animals will split off and form little cliques of their own, not unlike humans from varying age groups. In addition, the younger animals will tend to "mess around" more and exhibit more agressie behavior. I wonder if groups of animals that grow up from groups of agressive youths, ultimately tapper down in temperament or if they will always be as agressive.

    Jeff Keating (2)

    1. Your question of whether that aggressive behavior will carry though into adulthood intrigues me. I would love to do a study on how a horses behavior really changes as they grow up if they started out in a boisterous herd.

      Posted By: Jen Silva(3)

  2. I love how you applied the observations of the horse herd to human children. It is clearly evident that when children and young adults get together in groups they act less mature as opposed to when they are in a group with adults.

    Posted By Erica Bonnell(1)

  3. Working with horses every day, I also witness how this study holds true. But I have also noticed even with the many babies (ages 4 or younger) at the farm, when they constantly live with each other, the become comfortable and settle down. It is only when a new horse is added into the group do the horses start to test each other and see who can get away with what. Other than that, they establish roles and dominance early on. Even the 1 and 2 year olds know who is boss in their group, and will not act up or mess with that one horse.

    Taylor Pirog (2)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. The connection between our behavior and other animals behaviors is not so different. I think we tend to view ourselves as very different than animals in the way be behave due to our large cognitive capacity. However, in some of the most basic ways (even social ways) we are very much animals.

    - William Mohn

  6. Its interesting when we find animals that have similar patterns in behavior as humans.

    Looking at adults as a standard for behavior seems to be a common thing among social animals.

    However, you said that young horses spent less times with their peers when adult horses were around. Is it possible that the young horses' change in behavior was due to not being around peers rather than the behavior being taught by the adult horses?

    Posted by Joseph Frimpong