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Brain based phenotypic differences occurring in crib-biting horses: continuing the search for a heritable component

  • A. J. Hemmings (a1) and S. D. McBride (a2)


Approximately 8% of European performance horses engage in cribbiting behaviour (McGreevy et al.,1995, Redbo et al., 1998), a trait which can reduce both financial value and welfare status of the animal. An increase in prevalence to 26% was reported in those families originating from crib-biting sires (Vecchiotti and Galantini 1986), tentatively implying that a genetic component may be involved. Indeed, in a herd of Przewalski's horse, there was an 84% chance of offspring crib-biting if they originated from cribbing parents (Marsden and Henderson 1994). Finally, hereditary transmission has been more reliably demonstrated in the rodent, where stereotypy can be induced following 9 days of food restriction in the highly inbred DBA mouse strain, but not the C57 strain (Cabib and Bonaventura 1997) suggesting 1) propagation of a genetic component within the DBA genotype and 2) the requirement of an environmental stressor for stereotypy development. In the rodent model this genetic pre-disposition manifests physiologically as a facilitation of dopamine transmission within the mesolimbic projection following a period of stress (Cabib et al., 1998).



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Cabib, S., Giardino, L., Calza, L., Zanni, M., Mele, A. and Puglisiallegra, S. 1998. Stress promotes major changes in dopamine receptor densities within the mesoaccumbens and nigrostriatal systems. Neuroscience 84: 193200.
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Marsden, M.D. and Henderson, J., 1994. The inheritance of susceptibility patterns to stereotypic behaviour in the horse. Proceedings of Hereditary Diseases of Horses. Interlaken Switzerland 08.09.94
Vecchiotti, G.G, and Galantini, R., 1986 Evidence of heredity of cribbing, weaving and box walking in Thoroughbred Horses. Livestock Production Science 14: 9195


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