Horse personality: Variation between breeds

Lloyd, Adele Sian; Martin, Joanne Elizabeth; Bornett-Gauci, Hannah Louise Imogen and Wilkinson, Robert George (2008). Horse personality: Variation between breeds. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 112(3-4) pp. 369–383.



Anecdotal evidence from horse owners and handlers suggests the existence of breed typical behaviour and personality in horses. This is further supported by current research on heritability of personality characteristics in a range of species. The Horse Personality Questionnaire (HPQ) is a 25-item rating method that has previously been shown to be reliable for the assessment of personality in horses. Principal component analysis on HPQ data has identified six underlying personality components in horses. These are Dominance, Anxiousness, Excitability, Protection, Sociability and Inquisitiveness. Using the HPQ a survey of 1223 horses of eight different breeds was completed. Data were analysed to explore any differences in personality between breeds across the six personality components. Breed differences in personality were identified, and it was noted that variability between breeds varied between personality components. Anxiousness and Excitability showed the most variation between breeds, whilst Dominance and Protection showed the least variance. The results identified breed typical personalities that were comparable to results from previous studies as well as anecdotal evidence provided by the popular equine literature. The results are discussed in terms of the potential selection pressures that may have resulted in these differences.

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