Behavioural reactivity of ewes and lambs during partial and total social isolation

Shanis Barnard*, Lindsay R. Matthews, Stefano Messori, Michele Podaliri Vulpiani, Nicola Ferri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This work investigated the differences in the reactivity of Sarda (primiparous n= 18, multiparous n= 17) and Dorset (multiparous n= 8) breeds of sheep and their singleton lambs to two challenging test situations involving a mother-lamb partial separation test and an isolation test. Non-parametric analysis used single behavioural variables and fear scores to evaluate the effect of parity, sex of lambs, and the association between mother-lamb behaviour. Amongst ewes, Dorset were characterised by a more calm temperament while Sarda (especially primiparous ewes) were more active in their response to challenge (i.e. more attempts to escape). As with their dams, lambs reflected to a certain extent this divergence and overall during isolation lamb fear score was on average significantly higher than dams. Correlations between measures of behavioural reactivity across tests were carried out to search for predictive measures of fear. A very strong correlation emerged linking vocalisation to locomotor activity. Vocalisation could be a good candidate as predictor factor of an active reaction of sheep to a fearful situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-97
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Early online date11 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Fear
  • Mother-lamb bond
  • Sheep
  • Temperament
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Animals

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