Start Research Movement initiation in groups of feral horses (Krüger, 2014)
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Movement initiation in groups of feral horses

Krüger, K. Flauger, B., Farmer, K., Hemelrijk, C. Behavioural Processes, 2014

 

Brief summary and comments

 

Flocks of birds, swarms of insects and schools of fish move in coordinated groups, and computer models show that only one or very few animals are needed to initiate and direct movement.

 

To investigate movement patterns in horses, we studied traits affecting the likelihood of a horse initiating movement: social rank, friendly relationships, spatial position, and social network, and we looked at whether group members join a movement in dominance rank order.

 

 

Our results show that whereas herding is exclusive to alpha males (the picture on the right), any group member may initiate movement by departing from the group (the picture on the left).  However, the departing horse is more likely to be followed if it is high ranking, and other horses often follow in rank order.

 

This study was important because it debunks the myth that there is a single "lead mare" who always leads the group. The leadership is distributed mostly over the higher ranking individuals, but any horse can suggest movement and may be followed by others.

 

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