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Horse behavioural genetics: A review

Abstract : The existence of a genetic component has been shown in a variety of behavioural traits like fear, aggression and emotionality. Selection experiments for specific behaviours have been successfully accomplished in a variety of species such as foxes, mink and chickens and high heritabilities were estimated for some traits. In some countries like New Zeeland and USA, behavioural reaction to human handling has been included in selection of beef cattle. In horses, as animals are often dispersed in a variety of environmental conditions, it is still difficult to estimate genetic parameters for behavioural traits. However, Behavioural similarities in animals issued from the same sire or belonging to the same breed are observed in foals and adult horses both in freely expressed behaviours (play, distance to the dam) as well as in reactions to experimental situations (emotional or learning tests). Stereotypic behaviours seem to appear more frequently in some breeds and / or families. Individual variations in foals behaviour can be observed at early ages and seem to predict some adult tendencies. It seems therefore that including some behavioural traits in selection is possible in horses especially since the first estimated heritabilities are promising. A chronological review of the history of research in behavioural genetics is presented with a particular interest for horses.
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Submitted on : Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 10:02:08 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 9, 2020 - 4:08:04 PM

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Haïfa Benhajali. Horse behavioural genetics: A review. 61st annual meeting of the European Association for Animal Production, European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP), Aug 2010, Heraklion, Greece. ⟨10.3920/978-90-8686-708-0⟩. ⟨hal-01332518⟩

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