Crib-biting in US horses: Breed predispositions and owner perceptions of aetiology
Article first published online: 5 JAN 2010
2009 EVJ Ltd
Equine Veterinary Journal
Volume 41, Issue 5, pages 455–458, May 2009
How to Cite
ALBRIGHT, J. D., MOHAMMED, H. O., HELESKI, C. R., WICKENS, C. L. and HOUPT, K. A. (2009), Crib-biting in US horses: Breed predispositions and owner perceptions of aetiology. Equine Veterinary Journal, 41: 455–458. doi: 10.2746/042516409X372584
- Issue published online: 5 JAN 2010
- Article first published online: 5 JAN 2010
- [Paper received for publication 01.07.08; Accepted 25.09.08]
- breed prevalence;
Reasons for performing study: Crib-biting is an equine stereotypy that may result in diseases such as colic. Certain breeds and management factors have been associated.
Objectives: To determine: breed prevalence of crib-biting in US horses; the likelihood that one horse learns to crib-bite from another; and owner perceptions of causal factors.
Methods: An initial postal survey queried the number and breed of crib-biting horses and if a horse began after being exposed to a horse with this habit. In a follow-up survey, a volunteer subset of owners was asked the number of affected and nonaffected horses of each breed and the extent of conspecific contact. The likelihood of crib-biting given breed and extent of contact was quantified using odds ratio (OR) and significance of the association was assessed using the Chi-squared test.
Results: Overall prevalence was 4.4%. Thoroughbreds were the breed most affected (13.3%). Approximately half of owners believed environmental factors predominantly cause the condition (54.4%) and crib-biting is learned by observation (48.8%). However, only 1.0% of horses became affected after being exposed to a crib-biter. The majority (86%) of horses was turned out in the same pasture with other horses and extent of contact with conspecifics was not statistically related to risk.
Conclusion: This is the first study to report breed prevalence for crib-biting in US horses. Thoroughbreds were the breed more likely to be affected. More owners believed either environmental conditions were a predominant cause or a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes to the behaviour. Only a small number of horses reportedly began to crib-bite after being exposed to an affected individual, but approximately half of owners considered it to be a learned behaviour; most owners did not isolate affected horses.
Potential relevance: Genetic predisposition, not just intensive management conditions and surroundings, may be a factor in the high crib-biting prevalence in some breeds, and warrants further investigation. Little evidence exists to suggest horses learn the behaviour from other horses, and isolation may cause unnecessary stress.