Significance of Group Composition for the Welfare of Pastured Horses

Hrefna Sigurjonsdottir, Hans Haraldsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


We explore how herd composition and management factors correlate with frequencies of social interactions in horse groups. Since the welfare of horses correlates with low aggression levels and social contact opportunities, information of this kind is important. The data are a collection of records of social interactions of 426 Icelandic horses in 20 groups of at least eight horses. The complexities and limitations of the data prohibit useful statistical modelling so the results are presented descriptively. Interesting and informative patterns emerge which can be of use both in management and in future studies. Of special interest are the low levels of agonistic behaviours in breeding groups where one stallion was present. The horses were less agonistic when in groups with young foals and where group membership was stable. Unfamiliar yearlings in peer groups were especially aggressive. Allogrooming was most frequent in groups with relatively more young horses and in unstable and small groups. Interestingly, the horses allogroomed more if they had few preferred allogrooming partners. The findings show that composition (age/sex) and stability of groups are of great importance with respect to aggression levels and opportunities for establishing bonds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Other keywords

  • Atferlisfræði
  • Árásarhneigð
  • Beitilönd
  • Félagshegðun
  • Hagi
  • Hestar
  • Íslenski hesturinn
  • Dýravelferð
  • Horse welfare
  • Aggression
  • Allogrooming
  • Pastured horses
  • Icelandic horse
  • Vinahót
  • Group composition


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