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Social relationships between ewes of two breeds

  • C. M. Dwyer (a1) and A. B. Lawrence (a1)


Domestic sheep have a strong social tendency. However, the nature of social relationships varies with season, breed, and size of enclosure. Ewes occupy a smaller home-range, with larger subgroup sizes, in the winter compared with the summer months (Lawrence and Wood-Gush, 1988a). Domestication has apparently led to a reduction in nearest neighbour (NN) distances from feral (Soay) sheep, who do not have strong flocking behaviour, to Merinos with NN distances of less than 2 m (Arnold, 1985). The social choices made by ewes affect their foraging behaviour and may have significant effects on production (Lawrence and Wood-Gush, 1988b). The aim of this study was to examine the social choices of a hill and a lowland breed of ewe when grazing two different environments in spring and summer of 1995 and 1996. The influence of lamb genotype on the behaviour of the ewes was also investigated.



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Arnold, G. W. 1985. Association and social behaviour. In Ethology of farm animals (ed. Fraser, A. F.), pp. 233246. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Arnold, G. W. and Pahl, P. J. 1974. Some aspects of social behaviour in domestic sheep. Animal Behaviour 22: 592600.
Lawrence, A. B. and Wood-Gush, D. G. M. 1988a. Home-range behaviour and social organization of Scottish Blackface sheep. Journal of Applied Ecology 25: 2540.
Lawrence, A. B. and Wood-Gush, D. G. M. 1988b. The influence of social behaviour on utilization of supplemental feedblocks by Scottish hill sheep. Animal Production 46: 203212.
O’Connor, C. E. 1990. Mother-offspring relationships in Scottish Blackface sheep. Ph.D. thesis, University of Edinburgh.
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BSAP Occasional Publication
  • ISSN: 0263-967X
  • EISSN: 2053-5953
  • URL: /core/journals/bsap-occasional-publication
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