detour

Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Leanne Proops, Ian Hocking, Faith A. Burden. December 2012. Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task. Animal Cognition.

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Publication details
Publication date: 
28 December 2012
Journal: 
Animal Cognition
DOI number: 
DOI 10.1007/s10071-012-0589-4
Abstract

We investigated perseveration and detour behaviour in 36 equids (Equus caballus, E. asinus, E. caballus x E. asinus) and compared these data to those of a previous study on domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). The animals were required to make a detour through a gap at one end of a straight barrier in order to reach a visible target. After one, two, three or four repeats (A trials), the gap was moved to the opposite end of the barrier (B trials). We recorded initial deviations from the correct solution
path and the latency to crossing the barrier. In the A trials, mules crossed the barrier significantly faster than their parental species, the horses and donkeys. In the B trials, following the change of gap location, all species showed a reduction in performance. Both dogs and horses exhibited significant spatial perseveration, going initially to the previous gap location. Donkeys and mules, however, performed at chance level. Our results suggest that hybrid vigour in mules extends to spatial abilities.

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Mind the gap: Spatial perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple detour task

Citation

Britta Osthaus, Faith A. Burden, Ian Hocking, Leanne Proops. Mind the gap: Spatial perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple detour task. Presented at ASAB Interdisciplinary Workshop 2012: Physical Cognition and Problem Solving. (27 June - 28 June 2012). Birmingham, UK.

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Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 28 June 2012
Abstract

We compared spatial problem solving abilities in the mule (Equus asinus x Equus caballus) with that of its parent species to assess the effects of hybridization on cognition. In a detour task the animals(N=48) were required to make a detour through a gap at one end of a straight barrier in order to reach a visible target. After one, two, three or four repeats (A trials), the gap was moved to the opposite end of the barrier (B trials) and deviations from the straight line and the latency to crossing the barrier were recorded. Mules performed significantly above chance level on their first detour, unlike the other two species. We discuss our results with reference to hybrid vigour and to the flexibility of problem solving strategies with regards to species differences.

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