Subscription Required

Behaviour

Is Licking and Chewing a Sign of Submission in Horses?

Licking and chewing in horses originates from a surge in saliva output as the body switches from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system.

Thumbnail for Is Licking and Chewing a Sign of Submission in Horses?

By: Antonia J.Z. Henderson |

Licking and chewing originates from a surge in saliva output as the body switches from the sympathetic nervous system (Whoa! We are in trouble here. Flying McDonald’s wrapper – all hooves on deck!) to the parasympathetic nervous system (Chill. Danger averted. It was the non-lethal kind.). Rather than being a submissive behaviour that says ‘I accept you as my alpha leader,’ these behaviours are nearly always indicative of a horse being released from a higher to lower state of alarm or distress. Studying 200 feral horses living in Ecuador with almost no human intervention, Norwegian equine researchers Margrete Lie and Ruth Newberry (2018) discovered that licking and chewing was observed in all horses. In threatening encounters, both the aggressor and the submissive horse licked and chewed, although, surprisingly, aggressors did so slightly more often. These results suggest that licking and chewing does not appear to be a submissive gesture. This…

Subscription Upgrade Required

Upgrade your subscription now for full access or register to continue reading.

Login

Subscribers: Enter the email and password connected to your subscription.

First time logging in?

Click here.

Don't have an account?

Click here.
Tablet/Mobile users must also refresh after login to activate subscription.

Subscribe now and enjoy full access to Horse-Canada.com

Your subscription includes an annual subscription to the print version of Horse Canada

as well as unlimited access to all digital content on Horse-Canada.com.

digital subscription
View Print and Digital Subscription Offers