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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Genetics and behaviour in horses

INRA Prod. Anim., 15(5), 383-389.


1 Université de Rennes, UMR Ethologie-Evolution-Ecologie CNRS, Avenue du Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes Cedex

2 INRA SAGA, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan


The genetics of behaviour in horses is just starting. The interest of including behavioural traits in selection has been only recently underlined. Moreover, it is a difficult question to tackle in horses as animals are dispersed in a variety of environmental conditions. There are some undirect indications based on comparisons of breeds or families.

Behavioural similarities in animals issued from the same sire or belonging to the same breed are oberserved in foals and adult horses both in freely expressed behaviours (play, distance to the dam) as well as in reactions to experimental situations (emotional or learning tests).

Stereotypic behaviours seem to appear more frequently in some breeds and / or families.

The relative weight of environmental and genetic factors on the determinism of behavioural traits seems to differ according to the trait being considered. Moreover the observed differences between families or breeds can as well be related to epigenetic factors (maternal effect for example).

It seems possible and promising to include behaviour in horse selection but it is necessary to have clear objectives in the trait seeked, the way it can be measured and to evaluate the impact of environmental factors.

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