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Dominance patterns and positional behaviour of sheep in yards

  • H. Dove (a1), R. G. Beilharz (a1) and J. L. Black (a1)

Summary

1. Observations were conducted to ascertain the social dominance structure in two small groups of castrated male Corriedale sheep. In these and a third group, the order of the sheep past a fixed point was recorded, when they were moving either voluntarily or under force. Records were also made of the way in which the sheep distributed themselves spatially in a confined area, relative to one or two men simulating yard work. In a fourth group divided into two sub-groups, the social dominance structure was determined before and after the subgroups were mixed, to assess the effect of mixing.

2. The small groups showed a distinct social dominance hierarchy of a linear type, similar to that found in cattle and pigs. The dominance status of individual animals was correlated with their body weight, wither height and height at hocks. Dominance status within a subgroup remained stable following the mixing of sub-groups.

3. The sheep adopted consistent positions in forced movement, and in relation to one or two men simulating yard work. There was no consistency in voluntary movement. Dominant animals did not lead the forced movement, were usually some distance from man, and were widely scattered from each other.

4. Dominance status was closely related to positional behaviour.

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References

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Dominance patterns and positional behaviour of sheep in yards

  • H. Dove (a1), R. G. Beilharz (a1) and J. L. Black (a1)

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