Welfare consequences of digging substrates in blue foxes

Conference paper

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to evaluate welfare implications of digging substrates on blue foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in wire cages. Digging substrates compared here were sandbox and digging plates placed on cage floor and cage wall. Digging in sand was considered as a goal-directed behaviour. Plates provided foxes possible to perform digging behaviour per se. Each group comprised of 20 juveniles housed in pairs. The results showed that motivation to dig for a specific goal was no greater than to perform digging behaviour per se only. There was a significant difference in dirtiness of the fur between the groups (P<0.001). The pelts originating from animals in sandbox cages were dirtier than those from other groups. Plates on cage wall and floor did not negatively affect fur quality. Behavioural recordings did not reveal marked differences between the groups. The weight gain in animals with digging plates was similar to that in animals housed in standard cages. The variation in body weight was highest in animals with a sandbox. No statistical difference was found in blood picture between experimental groups. There was a slight tendency (P=0.07) for adrenal glands to be heaviest in animals from the sandbox group. Digging plates were considered to be more suitable as digging substrates than a sandbox.

Keywords:

Digging animal welfare motivation fur animal production 

References

  1. Dawkins, M.S., 1990. From animal’s point of view: motivation, fitness and animal welfare. Behavioural Brain Science 13: 1–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dawkins, M.S., 2004. Using behavior to assess animal welfare. Animal Welfare 13: 3–7.Google Scholar
  3. Hovland, A-H. and Bakken, M., 2000. The welfare situation of farmed foxes in relation to domestication status and compared to other farmed species. Agricultural University of Norway (NLH), Department of Animal Science, 88 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Korhonen, H., 1987. Significance of sleeping plate as a thermal protection for farmed raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 87A: 631–633.Google Scholar
  5. Korhonen, H., Niemelä. P. and Wikman, I., 2001a. Extent of digging and its possible underlying causal factors in penned blue foxes. Acta Ethology 3: 127–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Korhonen, H.T., Jauhiainen, L., Niemelä, P., Harri, M. and Sauna-aho, R., 2001b. Effects of space allowance and behavioural responses in blue foxes (Alopex lagopus): Comparisons between space quantity and floor material. Physiology and Behaviour 69: 571–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Korhonen, H., Jauhianen, L., Niemelä, P., Harri, M. and Sauna-aho, R., 2001c. Physiological and behavioural responses in blue foxes (Alopex lagopus): comparisons between space quantity and floor material. Animal Science 72: 375–387.Google Scholar
  8. Korhonen, H.T., Jauhiainen, L. and Rekilä, T., 2003. In-cage sandbox as a ground substitute for farmed blue foxes (Alopex lagopus): Effect of digging activity and welfare. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 83: 703–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Korhonen, H.T., Jauhiainen, L., Kokkonen, L. and Rekilä, T., 2004. Digging in farmed blue foxes: essential or not? Annals of Animal Science 4(2): 405–419.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Wageningen Academic Publishers The Netherlands 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Animal Production ResearchFinland

Personalised recommendations