ResearchEducationNewsPublicationsJobsBusiness cooperationFaculty

Home / Research / Departments / Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition / Behaviour and stress biology / Projects / Fear and social transmission


Fear and social transmission



Scientist:  Janne Winther Christensen




Each year, fear reactions in large domestic herbivores, such as cattle, sheep and horses, cause several human accidents. These animals have co-evolved with their predators for millions of years in the wild and have evolved anti-predator responses both to actual threats and to generalised threatening stimuli, such as unknown objects and sudden events. Although the threshold for expression of fear responses is elevated in domestic animals, these behaviours are still expressed once that threshold has been reached. Especially horses show intense flight reactions when alarmed and bolting horses frequently cause serious and fatal accidents, i.e. through traffic collisions.
Although related to survival in the wild, fear has negative effects on welfare in domestic animals, which cannot effectively control or escape a perceived threat. Despite the negative effects of fear on welfare, health, and safety, several important questions related to fear in domestic animals remain unanswered. Due to their social nature and intense flight reactions, horses are suitable model animals for studies of fear and social transmission.
The overall aim of this project is to i) identify factors related to the perception and expression of fear and ii) determine the extent to which fear can be modified through social transmission of learned responses from calm conspecifics.


Last updated: Monday 27 August 2007 - [email protected]