Article Text

Heart rate and behavioural responses of crib-biting horses to two acute stressors
  1. M. Minero, DVM1,
  2. E. Canali, DVM1,
  3. V. Ferrante, DVM1,
  4. M. Verga1 and
  5. F. O. Odberg2
  1. 1 Istituto di Zootecnica Veterinaria, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Celoria, 10, 20133, Milano, Italy
  2. 2 Department of Animal Nutrition, Genetics, Production and Ethology, University of Ghent, Merelbeke, Belgium


The heart rate and behaviour of 14 adult saddle horses, eight crib-biters and six normal controls, were investigated. Initially, the relationship between crib-biting and heart rate was investigated while the horses were undisturbed. The horses were tested when restrained with a lip twitch, and assessed when they were exposed suddenly to the rapid inflation of a balloon. The heart rate of the crib-biters during crib-biting was lower than during other behaviour. The crib-biters had a higher overall mean heart rate (P<0.05) suggesting that they may have had a higher basal sympathetic activity. After the application of the twitch, all the horses had a transient increase in heart rate which returned to basal values more rapidly in the crib-biters. The crib-biters were less reactive to the lip twitch, five of the six investigated remaining calm, and after the release of the twitch, they spent more time nibbling (P<0.05) than the control horses. The crib-biters reacted more strongly to the inflation of the balloon (three of the six reacted), and after it had been inflated they spent more time walking in the box.

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.