The benefits of high rank in the wintertime—A study of the Icelandic horse

Source: Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2008, vol 114, issue 3-4
Behaviour and location of individuals in five groups of Icelandic horses kept in large pastures was documented to see if rank position influenced access to hay and shelter in the wintertime.
Rank orders were significantly linear in all groups (resp. N = 10; 19; 23; 28; and 30) and correlated with both age and weight in four of the five groups. The higher ranking horses spent relatively more time than the subordinates eating hay and less time grazing, while the total time spent eating was the same. The subordinate horses were more likely to be found at the periphery of their respective groups than the dominant ones. Only one group, which consisted almost exclusively of sub-adults, did use the manmade shelter to some extent. In the more established groups (older horses) higher ranking individuals got shelter from the others when the horses stood in tight groups during windy days. Our results in general suggest that group composition can be of much significance with respect to access to both food and shelter. In the two groups where body condition was assessed the horses which had higher ranks improved their condition over the winter while the opposite was true for the low ranking ones.

Title: The benefits of high rank in the wintertime—A study of the Icelandic horse

Authors: Hrefna B. Ingólfsdóttir and Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir