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Do lambs perceive regular human stroking as pleasant? Behavior and heart rate variability analyses.

Coulon M, Nowak R, Peyrat J, Chandèze H, Boissy A, Boivin X - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Stroking by humans is beneficial to the human-animal relationship and improves welfare in many species that express intraspecific allogrooming, but very few studies have looked at species like sheep that do not express such contact except around parturition.Heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded and analyzed by 2-min slots over the same interval based on three measures: mean heart rate value (HR), root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) and standard deviation of all intervals measured between consecutive sinus beats (SDNN).All behavioral variables were highly correlated with the main component axis of the PCA analyses: the more the animals stayed in contact with their caregiver, the less they moved and the more their ears were hanging.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: INRA, Unité Mixte de Recherche 1213 Herbivores, Site de Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France; Clermont Université, VetAgro Sup, Unité Mixte de Recherche Herbivores, BP 10448, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.

ABSTRACT
Stroking by humans is beneficial to the human-animal relationship and improves welfare in many species that express intraspecific allogrooming, but very few studies have looked at species like sheep that do not express such contact except around parturition. This study investigated the way lambs perceive regular human tactile contact using behavioral and physiological responses. Twenty-four lambs were reared and bucket-fed in groups of four. All were stroked daily by their familiar caregiver. At 8 weeks of age, the lambs were individually tested in their home pen but in a 1×1m open-barred pen after a 15 h period of habituation to physical separation from peers while remaining in visual and auditory contact. Half of the lambs received stroking by their caregiver for 8 min and half were exposed to their caregiver's immobile presence. Heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded and analyzed by 2-min slots over the same interval based on three measures: mean heart rate value (HR), root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) and standard deviation of all intervals measured between consecutive sinus beats (SDNN). Behavioral responses (ear postures of the lamb and time spent in contact with the familiar caregiver, on the knees of the familiar caregiver, and moving) were recorded throughout the test. Lamb HR decreased continuously while in the presence of their caregiver. Lambs being stroked showed slower HR and higher RMSSD which reflected positive emotional states compared to lambs left unstroked. All behavioral variables were highly correlated with the main component axis of the PCA analyses: the more the animals stayed in contact with their caregiver, the less they moved and the more their ears were hanging. This first component clearly differentiates lambs being stroked or not. Behavioral and physiological observations support the hypothesis that gentle physical contact with the caregiver is perceived positively by lambs.

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Position of the ears recorded in the 8-week-old tested lambs.Position of the ears in relation to frontal plane of the head and the orientation of the auricles observed in front of the animal: ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture, asymmetrical posture and ear hanging (adapted from [31]).
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pone.0118617.g002: Position of the ears recorded in the 8-week-old tested lambs.Position of the ears in relation to frontal plane of the head and the orientation of the auricles observed in front of the animal: ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture, asymmetrical posture and ear hanging (adapted from [31]).

Mentions: The test was video-recorded and the following behavioral variables were recorded: the latency to approach the familiar caregiver when she entered the small pen, then during 8 min the percentage of time spent in contact (any part of its body) with her, on her knees of the familiar caregiver, and moving. Ear postures of the lamb were also recorded every 15 sec during 8 min as in Reefmann et al. [30], and expressed as percentage of total observations: ear hanging, ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture and asymmetrical posture (Fig. 2). Attempts to escape the pen and vocalizations were also recorded when the familiar caregiver entered the pen and during the 8 min.


Do lambs perceive regular human stroking as pleasant? Behavior and heart rate variability analyses.

Coulon M, Nowak R, Peyrat J, Chandèze H, Boissy A, Boivin X - PLoS ONE (2015)

Position of the ears recorded in the 8-week-old tested lambs.Position of the ears in relation to frontal plane of the head and the orientation of the auricles observed in front of the animal: ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture, asymmetrical posture and ear hanging (adapted from [31]).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4340872&req=5

pone.0118617.g002: Position of the ears recorded in the 8-week-old tested lambs.Position of the ears in relation to frontal plane of the head and the orientation of the auricles observed in front of the animal: ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture, asymmetrical posture and ear hanging (adapted from [31]).
Mentions: The test was video-recorded and the following behavioral variables were recorded: the latency to approach the familiar caregiver when she entered the small pen, then during 8 min the percentage of time spent in contact (any part of its body) with her, on her knees of the familiar caregiver, and moving. Ear postures of the lamb were also recorded every 15 sec during 8 min as in Reefmann et al. [30], and expressed as percentage of total observations: ear hanging, ear in axial posture, forward posture, backward posture and asymmetrical posture (Fig. 2). Attempts to escape the pen and vocalizations were also recorded when the familiar caregiver entered the pen and during the 8 min.

Bottom Line: Stroking by humans is beneficial to the human-animal relationship and improves welfare in many species that express intraspecific allogrooming, but very few studies have looked at species like sheep that do not express such contact except around parturition.Heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded and analyzed by 2-min slots over the same interval based on three measures: mean heart rate value (HR), root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) and standard deviation of all intervals measured between consecutive sinus beats (SDNN).All behavioral variables were highly correlated with the main component axis of the PCA analyses: the more the animals stayed in contact with their caregiver, the less they moved and the more their ears were hanging.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: INRA, Unité Mixte de Recherche 1213 Herbivores, Site de Theix, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France; Clermont Université, VetAgro Sup, Unité Mixte de Recherche Herbivores, BP 10448, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.

ABSTRACT
Stroking by humans is beneficial to the human-animal relationship and improves welfare in many species that express intraspecific allogrooming, but very few studies have looked at species like sheep that do not express such contact except around parturition. This study investigated the way lambs perceive regular human tactile contact using behavioral and physiological responses. Twenty-four lambs were reared and bucket-fed in groups of four. All were stroked daily by their familiar caregiver. At 8 weeks of age, the lambs were individually tested in their home pen but in a 1×1m open-barred pen after a 15 h period of habituation to physical separation from peers while remaining in visual and auditory contact. Half of the lambs received stroking by their caregiver for 8 min and half were exposed to their caregiver's immobile presence. Heart rate and heart rate variability were recorded and analyzed by 2-min slots over the same interval based on three measures: mean heart rate value (HR), root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) and standard deviation of all intervals measured between consecutive sinus beats (SDNN). Behavioral responses (ear postures of the lamb and time spent in contact with the familiar caregiver, on the knees of the familiar caregiver, and moving) were recorded throughout the test. Lamb HR decreased continuously while in the presence of their caregiver. Lambs being stroked showed slower HR and higher RMSSD which reflected positive emotional states compared to lambs left unstroked. All behavioral variables were highly correlated with the main component axis of the PCA analyses: the more the animals stayed in contact with their caregiver, the less they moved and the more their ears were hanging. This first component clearly differentiates lambs being stroked or not. Behavioral and physiological observations support the hypothesis that gentle physical contact with the caregiver is perceived positively by lambs.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus