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Social grouping and maternal behaviour in feral horses (Equus caballus): the influence of males on maternal protectiveness

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 06:50 authored by Elissa Cameron, Linklater, WL, Stafford, KJ, Minot, EO
The risk of infant injury or mortality influences maternal behaviour, particularly protectiveness. Mares are found in bands with a single stallion or bands with more than one stallion in which paternity is less certain. We investigated maternal behaviour in relation to band type. Mares in bands with more than one stallion were more protective of their foals, particularly when stallions and foals approached one another. The rate of aggression between the stallion and foal was a significant predictor of maternal protectiveness, and mare protectiveness was significantly correlated with reduced reproductive success in the subsequent year. Mares that changed band types with a foal at foot, or had their band type experimentally altered, were more protective of their foal in multi-stallion bands than they were in single-stallion bands. Equids are unusual amongst ungulates in that infanticide and feticide have been reported. Both occur where paternity has been uncertain, and equid social structure is similar to other species in which infanticide has been reported. Stallions benefit from infanticide as the mare has greater reproductive success in the subsequent year. Stallion aggression is a significant modifier of mare behaviour and maternal effort, probably due to the risk of infanticide.


Publication title

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology








School of Natural Sciences



Place of publication

175 Fifth Ave, New York, USA, Ny, 10010

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other environmental management not elsewhere classified

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