The relevance of affiliative relationships in horses: review and future directions

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Helena Costa
Sara Fragoso
Filipa Heitor


For many years, studies on horse social behaviour focused mainly on social organization, dominance and aggression. There are comparatively fewer studies on affiliative relationships among horses, despite their impact on the stability of social groups, reproductive success and welfare. We believe that it is important to gain a more complete understanding of this dimension of horse social behaviour and to identify areas of research which need to be addressed in more detail.

This review summarizes the existing body of scientific knowledge on affiliative relationships among horses. Studies were conducted on a large variety of horse populations and environmental conditions, from feral to domestic horses under different management conditions. Moreover, studies conducted to date used different methodologies for data collection and analysis which make meaningful comparisons of their results more difficult. We present their main findings concerning the importance of affiliative relationships for horses and the individual and social factors associated with these relationships. Furthermore, we discuss the implications of these findings for management of domestic horses and propose avenues for future studies. We hope this review stimulates further research in this area and may contribute scientific knowledge to improve husbandry practices and horse welfare.

Article Details

Paper reviews


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