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Behaviour

Keeping the Herd Happy

Horses are evolutionarily designed to avoid confrontation and embrace affiliation in order to reap the most benefit from living within a group.

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By: Antonia J.Z. Henderson |

In modern stable designs, horses are often housed and turned out individually for fear that they will injure one another. But solitary confinement is just as hard on horses as it is on people. In fact, horses are evolutionarily designed to avoid confrontation and embrace affiliation in order to reap the most benefit from living within a group. For animals living in stable social organizations, behaviours that avoid conflict rather than escalate it are adaptive and become propagated through evolution. An aggressor expends energy resources, risks serious injury, and may forfeit the advantages of group membership if he becomes ostracized from the herd. Aggression may have equally dire consequences for the winners by threatening group cohesion and jeopardizing future cooperation. In the grand scheme of herd living, serious aggression seldom reaps a benefit that outweighs its cost. However, some planning must go into introducing unfamiliar horses into established social groups…

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