Mutual grooming and preferred associate relationships in a band of free-ranging horses

Preferred associate (nearest neighbour) and mutual grooming relationships among mares, in an isolated family band of free-ranging horses (Equus caballus), were studied, and the structural and functional differences between these two relationships were examined. The frequent partners accompanying the mare were not the same in both these relationships (p<0.05) and mares changed their partners during the study period between 1988?1990. Individual horses of similar rank tended to remain closer together in both winter and summer. Aggressive?submissive behaviour was so infrequent during spring that rank determinations could not be made; however, in fall, although rank could be determined, rank was not correlated with nearest neighbour. Three subgroups, based on preferred associate relationships in summer, fall and winter, directly reflected the age and social rank of the mares in the group. Individual horses of higher rank tended to have many partners in winter, while individuals of lower rank had fewer. There was no significant correlation between the frequency of mutual grooming and individual rank. The mutual grooming relationship was strongly influenced by seasonal changes as the relative amount of grazing time per day increased. Thus, the frequency of mutual grooming was lowest in winter and highest in summer. The mutual grooming relationship was based on the bonds between individual horses, which were little influenced by social rank. Lower ranking individuals tended to have a greater variety of grooming partners in summer.

Author Kimura, R.
Date null
Year 1998
Secondary title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 59
Number 4
Pages 265-276
Notes Notes
ISBN/ISSN doi:10.1016/S0168-1591(97)00129-9