Stereotypic Behaviour in the Stabled Horse: Causes, Effects and Prevention without Compromising Horse Welfare

  • J. Cooper
  • P. McGreevy
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 1)


Apparently functionless, repetitive behaviour in horses, such as weaving or crib-biting has been difficult to explain for behavioural scientists, horse owners and veterinarians alike. Traditionally activities such as these have been classed amongst the broad descriptor of undesirable stable vices and treatment has centred on prevention of the behaviours per se rather than addressing their underlying causes. In contrast, welfare scientists have described such activities as apparently abnormal stereotypics, claiming they are indicative of poor welfare, citing negative emotions such as boredom, frustration or aversion in the stable environment and even suggesting prevention of the activities alone can lead to increased distress. Our understanding of equine stereotypics has advanced significantly in recent years with epidemiological, developmental and experimental studies identifying those factors closely associated with the performance of stereotypics in stabled horses. These have allowed the development of new treatments based on removing the causal factors, improving the horses’ social and nutritional environment, re-training of horses and their owners and redirection of the activities to less harmful forms. Repetitive activities conventionally seen as undesirable responses to the stable environment, their causal basis and the effectiveness of different approaches to treatment are discussed, both in terms of reducing the behaviour and improving the horse’s quality of life.


Bank Vole Stereotypic Behaviour Nutritional Environment Stereotypic Activity Thoroughbred Horse 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Cooper
    • 1
  • P. McGreevy
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of LincolnRiseholme, LincolnUK
  2. 2.Faculty of Veterinary ScienceUniversity of SydneyAustralia

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