Send to

Choose Destination
Horm Behav. 2003 Jan;43(1):187-96.

Is a wild mammal kept and reared in captivity still a wild animal?

Author information

Department of Behavioral Biology, University of Münster, Badestrasse 9, 48149 Münster, Germany.


This study compared domestic guinea pigs (Cavia aperea f. porcellus; DGP) and two different populations of the wild cavy (Cavia aperea), its ancestor, to examine whether rearing of wild mammals in captivity affects their behavior and physiological stress responses. One population of wild cavies consisted of wild-trapped animals and their first laboratory-reared offspring (WGP-1). The animals of the other population were reared in captivity for about 30 generations (WGP-30). The spontaneous behavior of each of six groups of WGP-1 and WGP-30 and nine groups of DGP, each consisting of one adult male and two adult females, was analyzed quantitatively. Blood samples of the males were taken to determine cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine concentrations. In addition, the exploratory behavior of 60-day-old male WGP-1, WGP-30, and DGP was investigated in an exploration apparatus. The domesticated animals displayed significantly less aggression, but significantly more sociopositive and male courtship behavior than their wild ancestors. In addition, DGP were much less attentive to their physical environment. Surprisingly, no behavioral difference was found between WGP-1 and WGP-30. Basal cortisol concentrations did not differ between wild and domestic guinea pigs. Catecholamine concentrations, however, as well as the challenge values of cortisol, were distinctly reduced in the DGP. WGP-1 and WGP-30 did not differ with respect to their endocrine stress responses. In the exploration apparatus both forms of wild cavies were much more explorative than the domestic animals. These data suggest that the long-term breeding and rearing of wild guinea pigs in captivity do not result in significant changes in behavior and hormonal stress responses. It appears to take much longer periods of time and artificial selection by humans to bring about characters of domestication in wild animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center