Chillingham Cattle: Dominance and Affinities and Access to Supplementary Food


  • Stephen J. G. Hall

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Group in Mammalian Ecology and Reproduction, Mary Marshall and Arthur Walton Laboratory, Physiological Laboratory, University of Cambridge
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Mary Marshall and Arthur Walton Laboratory, Physiological Laboratory, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EG, England.


A herd of cattle of natural sex ratio and age distribution, inhabiting a 134-ha park in northern England, was studied during supplementary feeding in 4 winters. Interactions could be summarised by conventional dominance hierarchies, more strictly linear and less stable among males than among females. Personal associations among individuals were not important, but affinities among social classes were, in determining the composition of feeding groups. Dominant males often fed in the same groups as dominant females. Dominant animals were less often seen to feed alone, implying that social dominance did not confer exclusive access to food. Cattle often fed in groups of two or three; certain combinations (notably those including two males, or one male and one female, or three calves) were stable, others unstable, notably combinations of females and calves, or of two or three females. This implies that females may defend resources more vigorously against other females than males do against other males.