Link found in animal temperament, bone size


FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Livestock handlers may be better able to predict which animals will experience stress in certain situations, according to an animal behavior specialist at Colorado State University.

This comes from a research project where it was found that cattle with fine bones may have a more skittish temperament than those with a heavier frame.

In the study, animals with a calmer temperament had cannon bones that were 5 percent wider and 9 percent thicker than high-strung animals with thinner bones.

“Being able to predict an animal’s temperament helps predict their behavior in various situations,” said Temple Grandin, animal behavior specialist. “Knowing how an animal may behave helps people manage animal handling systems with the animal’s welfare in mind.”

Flight vs. fight. Grandin said that animals are prone to either flight or fight, and she had noticed some time ago that animals with thinner bones are more prone to flight.

“In general, an antelope is more skittish than is a water buffalo; a greyhound dog is more flighty than a bull dog; Arabian horses are generally more high-strung than draft horses,” she said.

The study also shows that bone size indicates the differences in temperament between individual animals of the same breed.

Research help. “Our study shows a clear statistical difference in the behavior of steers and heifers with thicker and wider bones vs. steers and heifers with narrow, thinner bones,” said Jennifer Lanier, researcher.

She measured the cannon bones of about 200 cattle and used a scoring system to compare them with the animal’s behavior while being handled. The animal’s temperament was evaluated based on whether it ran, trotted or walked out of a chute after it was handled and whether it was reluctant to place its head in the chute.


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