Organizational systems and dominance in feral horses in the Grand Canyon

Summary

  1. 1.

    Several aspects of the behavioral ecology of feral horses (Equus caballus) were studied in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. Most bands contained three to five horses that included one stallion and his harem. Males that did not obtain a harem remained solitary. Throughout the study bands remained stable in composition.

  2. 2.

    Home ranges for all bands decreased in size in successive warm months, probably due to increased ambient temperature and drought. This resulted in greater utilization of spring areas that led to increased interband confrontation and agonistic display.

  3. 3.

    Territoriality was not observed in individual horses or bands, but bands hierarchial in both inter- and intraband structures. Interband stallion dominance was reinforced through posturing and fighting. Intraband hierarchies, as determined by dominance coefficients, were independent of individual size in three of four bands.

  4. 4.

    Indexes of nervousness (NER), calculated while horses were drinking, showed that stallions were less nervous than mares. A low NER was correlated with individuals leading toward drinking areas, whereas a high NER existed in individuals initiating flight although no single horse acted consistently as a leader.

  5. 5.

    Diurnal activity patterns were correlated with ambient temperatures.

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Berger, J. Organizational systems and dominance in feral horses in the Grand Canyon. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 2, 131–146 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00361898

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Keywords

  • Home Range
  • Walk Pattern
  • Grand Canyon
  • Solitary Male
  • Equus Caballus