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Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2001 Jan 6;70(3):227-237.

Variation in behavioural responses of ewes towards predator-related stimuli.

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Tjøtta Rural Development Centre, N-8860, Tjøtta, Norway


Thirty-two groups of six sheep, classified into three breed categories according to their weight class (L: light, one breed (n=7); M: medium light, two breeds (n=10); H: heavy, three breeds (n=15)) were tested for antipredatory behaviour towards seven stimulus regimes. Tests were performed on 2-5-years-old ewes with lambs inside standardised and fenced home pastures. Stimulus regimes were: man in rain poncho, trolley, ball on trolley (blind stimuli), stuffed wolverine on trolley, stuffed lynx on trolley, stuffed bear on trolley, and man in rain poncho with a dog on leash (carnivore stimuli). The L breed showed the longest recovery time, the longest flight distance and the tightest flocking behaviour. Significant regressions indicate that there were negative linear relationships between sheep weight and recovery time and between sheep weight and flight distance. Carnivore stimuli caused longer recovery times (P<0.001) and longer flight distances (P<0.001) than the blind stimuli. Our results confirm the hypothesis that lighter sheep breeds display stronger antipredatory reactions than heavier breeds.

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