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Discussion Starter #1
I visited some studs over the past few weeks as I have an assignment on stallion behavour. Lots of stallions were kept totally isolated from other horses without any contact at all and the owners or managers said it was because stallions could be savage. Two told me that stallions would kill foals. I thought that was wrong - if stallions were naturally savage then how did foals live in the wild herds with savage stallions?


I came home and did some googling and youtubing and found this
which shows a stallion doing what these owners said they did... attacking a foal. It just didn't seem right!

Then I found this from Australia called "Three Stallions Meet Two Foals"
which I thought was amazing after hearing so much about stallions killing foals and attacking other horses. I emailed the stud about it (they have their website listed on the video) to find out if the video was real and the lady there was really helpful. She said she used to have 'paddock stallions' when they lived on a ranch that was over 35,000 acres and in a herd situation the stallions were very kind to foals and put up with the foals playing with them and it was a mare that was the cranky 'boss of the herd'. She has five stallions and she said they are all very good with foals and other horses and they get transported together to shows and work together and even though they are kept in their own stables and own yards she said she often puts weanlings and yearlings around the stallions across the fence from them and the stallions lick and groom the young horses and never bite or attack them. She said she thought it was good for the stallions to have contact with other horses like that and they learn quickly that if they are savage the young horses will leave them alone and they don't want that.

I'm still learning a lot about stallions and how they behave with other horses. I don't want to have a stallion but I would like to work on a stud one day so I'm learning as much as I can and it's good to find out that although some stallions can become savage they're not meant to be that way.

(((And I looked at some of the other videos from this stud and they are really funny. I want to visit Australia. This is one of their Quarter Horse stallions playing with a toy monkey and I laughed and laughed.

)))
 

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It can vary quite a bit by individual stallion, and individual situation. I have owned a few different stallions (at different times, not all at once) which were successfully pastured with mares and foals. These stallions were on the whole more tolerant of and permissive with the foals than were the foals' dams. One stallion was particularly kind to foals, and one evening while I was on "foaling watch" in the pasture, I observed one of the broodmares seeking him out when she was ready to foal, laying down right in front of him to foal, and he stood over her quietly and observed the birth. Afterward he positioned himself between the rest of the curious mares and the mare with the new foal, as if he was guarding her privacy. The foal grew up eating grain with the stallion and standing under his tail to escape flies.

There are however accounts of stallions attacking or killing foals. It seems more likely to happen when a strange mare enters the herd who is carrying a foal not sired by the new stallion she now lives with.

Also, the video above shows a stallion killing a foal who cannot stand-- In the wild, this could be attributed to instinct--- to eliminate the weak, defective foal so that the mare or entire herd does not lag behind, causing risk to her/the herd from predators.

The accounts of stallions attacking and/or killing foals get talked about a lot and are often mistakenly (IMO) considered to be the "norm" for stallion behavior-- from my experience and observation, the tolerant stallion is actually more the "norm"-- it is just not as sensational or horrifying or exciting to talk about the kinder stallions, so we keep hearing more about the foal killers.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for that information. It was interesting to read about the mare who foaled near her stallion. In the wild, would that be because he would protect her from animals like wolves while she was vulnerable? I am curious about how different the behaviour of domestic stallions is from wild stallions, or stallions in herd situation.
 

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Just want to say - The stud that owns the not savage stallions is Horses of Gold - They are a great, great stud who treat their horses really well, produce great stock that ISN'T just bred for colour, and are just nice people :] The owner is on a couple of forums I'm on, and I absolutely LOOOOVE their champagne stallion Driftwood Traveller.
 

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Stallions are not the evil psychotic creatures they are portrayed to be. They are horses like any other, EXCEPT
A) They are RULED by hormones and instinct and

B) They are usually kept in a way that makes them go batty.

The stallion in the first video killed the foal for one of two (or both) reasons

1. It was not his foal. Lions, wolves, monkeys, dolphins, and even chickens and just about any other territorial pack or herd living animal will do the same, it ensures that only his bloodline is spread, it is nature. Plus by killing her offspring he ensures the mare will go back into estrus quickly and be ready for breeding again, so to him it is win win.

2. He sensed the foal was crippled and disposed of it to prevent it from contaminating the bloodline, some mares have been seen to do the same thing. The only way to do this is for him to stomp it to death or to shake it to death, you will notice he stopped immediately when the foal was dead, he did not do this out of pure badness or for fun, he did what he saw necessary for whatever reason.

Dolphins do the same thing with their own young if they feel over populated or a new male moves into the pod and wants to ensure his bloodline, though they practice on smaller porposes to perfect their technique to make the death of their young as painless as possible, they will swim to the bottom and then rocket themselves up under the baby they wish to kill and basically bludgeon it with a quick hit to the abdomen, rupturing its lungs in effect killing it. And while it is heart breaking to watch, animals are not like humans, they are not rued by emotion but instinct and logic. The foal was damaged and not his, nature took its course.

The stallions in the second video are sadly the exception rather than the rule. They are socialized and kept with other animals, rare for stallions.

Most stallions are kept in isolation and never socialized with another horse unless it is to breed. So should he by chance come into contact with a foal he is already amped up and pumped with testosterone, aggressive, and ruled by his hormones. He possibly wants to get rid of the foal like the stallion in the first video, or sees it as a threat to him or the mare he wants to breed. Being a herd animal it is maddening to most of them to be kept without the contact of another horse, so they tend to be rather nutty anyway even when not in breeding mode.
 

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>>>> it ensures that only his bloodline is spread, it is nature. Plus by killing her offspring he ensures the mare will go back into estrus quickly and be ready for breeding again, so to him it is win win.

This has been a commonly believed hypothesis, but there have been actual studies that do not support the idea that stallions commonly kill foals that are not theirs-- and if they do, that it gives them benefit of breeding the mare sooner, if at all. Below is an abstract of an 11 year study done on wild Przewalski horses which refuted foal killing as common and actually documented many times more cases of stallions NOT killing foals sired by other stallions when given the opportunity --


""The sexual selection hypothesis explains infanticide by males in many mammals. In our 11-year study, we investigated this hypothesis in a herd of Przewalski's horses where we had witnessed infanticidal attacks. Infanticide was highly conditional and not simply linked to takeovers. Attacks occurred in only five of 39 cases following a takeover, and DNA paternity revealed that, although infanticidal stallions were not the genetic fathers in four cases out of five, stallions present at birth did not significantly attempt to kill unrelated foals. Infanticide did not reduce birth intervals; only in one case out of five was the infanticidal stallion, the father of the next foal; mothers whose foals were attacked subsequently avoided associating with infanticidal stallions. Therefore, evidence for the sexual selection hypothesis was weak. The “human disturbance” hypothesis received some support, as only zoo bred stallions which grew up in unnatural social groups attacked foals of mares which were pregnant during takeovers.""

-----C. Feh and B. Munkhtuya
Association pour le cheval de Przewalski: TAKH, Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, 13200 Arles, France, Charles University in Prague, Ovocny trh 5, Praha 1, 116 36, Czech Republic
Received 18 April 2007; revised 7 December 2007; accepted 24 December 2007. Available online 12 January 2008.
 

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A stud that does that should be gelded. Who in the world wants to pass that on. I don't care if hes got great bloodlines and is a grand champion. Who wants a horse with a horrible disposition.
 

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I have a five year old stallion that lives with my geldings and you would never know he was a stallion unless you looked. He isn't even at the top of the pecking order. I have had an older stallion that bred many many mares and he was never hard to handle around mares and in a pasture situation he never paid much attention to the foals.
 

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I have a five year old stallion that lives with my geldings and you would never know he was a stallion unless you looked. He isn't even at the top of the pecking order. I have had an older stallion that bred many many mares and he was never hard to handle around mares and in a pasture situation he never paid much attention to the foals.
Same here, we have 3 studs and they all run in with geldings and many people dont think they are studs...the 4th one i anticipate will be of the same nature, however, I have always been told that if the foal is not out of the stud, chances are he will kill it, but we dont pasture breed anything, all hand.

Nate
 

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I have a five year old stallion that lives with my geldings and you would never know he was a stallion unless you looked. He isn't even at the top of the pecking order. I have had an older stallion that bred many many mares and he was never hard to handle around mares and in a pasture situation he never paid much attention to the foals.
To me, this is how a stallion should behave. I've met so many people who think that stallions should be kept isolated all the time. Yet, I started riding a flat-shod walker farm where the stallions were so well-behaved. They could be turned out with the geldings, walked right behind mares in heat with hardly a look, and my sister (who was twelve or thirteen at the time) even got to ride a few of them. There was also one stallion that had his little paddock right beside the nursing mares and foals. If any of them misbehaved, you could simply flick their lead rope and stand tall, and they would stop. The only time they were allowed show that behaviour was in the breeding shed with the permission of the handler.
Part of how he got them so gentle? The young stallions were turned out with the pregnant broodies to get their brains kicked around a little bit. They all learned really fast not to mess around with the ladies.
 

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I've never met a stallion who attacked a foal, and I've met plenty of them over the years.

Most stallions are either fascinated by the babies, or ignore them. It has nothing to do with whether or not they're the foal's father.

If you let a stallion be a HORSE, instead of thinking he's some sort of hormonal, rage driven beast who has to be isolated, he'll act like a horse.

As far as the first video, that foal was damaged goods. The stallion knew it and destroyed the baby, so it wouldn't prevent the foal's mother from staying with it and delaying herd movement.

Feral horses don't stay in one place very long, because it's dangerous and they can overgraze an area.

The stallion wasn't 'being mean', nor was he being particularly aggressive. He needed to keep his herd together, and knew the foal wasn't able to get up and run. He did what needed to be done.

Nature is cruel, kiddies. She's a nasty old witch, and if you show weakness, you become dinner for something else.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
It is so interesting reading these replies from people who know or own stallions. I had heard so many different things about them, how they can attack people for no reason and kill foals and go crazy but they are used in so many places as work horses and competition horses so they can't be all bad and although I want to work on a stud I was worried about working with stallions. Honeysuga, I really appreciate your reply and you use the word 'socialise' which the lady from the Horses of Gold stud used (wild_spot - she is a really nice lady, she has answered several emails now and even though I'm not going to be in a position to buy one of her horses or breed to the stallions she is taking the time to explain things, just like the people on this forum and it is great to see how helpful people can be when someone like me wants to learn) She said because they competed with their stallions it was important to keep the stallions socialised so that they were OK when out among other horses and stallions that don't get socialised can become difficult because its like keeping a person in isolation and they forget how to behave the right way.

From reading all your replies I'm beginning to realise its not the stallions that are the problem its the way they've been handled. Stallions handled by sensible people who understand how they think seem to have stallions that are good mannered and behaved but people who think stallions are meant to be savage and hard to handle have stallions like that. I asked the Australian lady about disciplining stallions and she said they only have to glare at them and make a growling noise and the stallions take a step back and apologise to her which sounds funny but she said its how she reads their body language and she said that stallions in a herd are usually bossed by the boss mare and so she wonders if they are programed to be bossed by estrogen which would explain why some women have such such well behaved respectful stallions but some women aren't 'boss mare' so have real problems with stallions. She said she has total belief in being the boss mare and the stallions show her such respect and they respect her husband and her daughter the same because they have total belief in being higher in the pecking order than the stallions and if I want to work with stallions I have to get the same body language and walk among them with my head high and believing totally that I am the boss mare so every move I make is confident and demands respect. Its not about yelling or hitting a stallion, its about eye contact and the set of my shoulders and my voice and my belief that I will not be challenged and if I am challenged I don't lose my temper as a stallion can win a fight and learn he is boss horse so I have to think my way to being boss and make the stallion step away from me or back away from me to assert myself but be careful incase the stallion is one who is dangerous. I guess some of the savage stallions I've seen and read about could have been well behaved if theyd been handled differently though some may just have bad natures and like Crimsonhorse said they should get gelded as disposition is so important.

I have learned so much in the last two days starting with finding out some stallions are good with foals.
 

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It is so interesting reading these replies from people who know or own stallions. I had heard so many different things about them, how they can attack people for no reason and kill foals and go crazy but they are used in so many places as work horses and competition horses so they can't be all bad and although I want to work on a stud I was worried about working with stallions. Honeysuga, I really appreciate your reply and you use the word 'socialise' which the lady from the Horses of Gold stud used (wild_spot - she is a really nice lady, she has answered several emails now and even though I'm not going to be in a position to buy one of her horses or breed to the stallions she is taking the time to explain things, just like the people on this forum and it is great to see how helpful people can be when someone like me wants to learn) She said because they competed with their stallions it was important to keep the stallions socialised so that they were OK when out among other horses and stallions that don't get socialised can become difficult because its like keeping a person in isolation and they forget how to behave the right way.

From reading all your replies I'm beginning to realise its not the stallions that are the problem its the way they've been handled. Stallions handled by sensible people who understand how they think seem to have stallions that are good mannered and behaved but people who think stallions are meant to be savage and hard to handle have stallions like that. I asked the Australian lady about disciplining stallions and she said they only have to glare at them and make a growling noise and the stallions take a step back and apologise to her which sounds funny but she said its how she reads their body language and she said that stallions in a herd are usually bossed by the boss mare and so she wonders if they are programed to be bossed by estrogen which would explain why some women have such such well behaved respectful stallions but some women aren't 'boss mare' so have real problems with stallions. She said she has total belief in being the boss mare and the stallions show her such respect and they respect her husband and her daughter the same because they have total belief in being higher in the pecking order than the stallions and if I want to work with stallions I have to get the same body language and walk among them with my head high and believing totally that I am the boss mare so every move I make is confident and demands respect. Its not about yelling or hitting a stallion, its about eye contact and the set of my shoulders and my voice and my belief that I will not be challenged and if I am challenged I don't lose my temper as a stallion can win a fight and learn he is boss horse so I have to think my way to being boss and make the stallion step away from me or back away from me to assert myself but be careful incase the stallion is one who is dangerous. I guess some of the savage stallions I've seen and read about could have been well behaved if theyd been handled differently though some may just have bad natures and like Crimsonhorse said they should get gelded as disposition is so important.

I have learned so much in the last two days starting with finding out some stallions are good with foals.
Years ago, I was assisting at a barn and the owners stallion was , well let's say, every thing you would dread behavior wise. Yes, it was how he was handled, though at the time I didn't realize that.

I thought this was how all stallions were, until I went with the BO to see a horse at another farm. The owner of that farm took us into the pasture to see the horse that was among a herd. While chatting and looking at the mare, he mentioned how this mare bossed his stallion around. I asked where the stallion was, and he told me "the horse that you're scratching under the jaw". :shock: He was an absolute doll. Handled very differently then the one at the other barn.

That's when I started asking as many questions as I could think of and watching how others handled their stallions.

The last barn I volunteered at (where my mare and gelding came from) had 3 stallions. Every day I cleaned the stalls these boys acted like gentlemen when removing from the stall or putting out into a special paddock for the stallions (though never together). Each one had their own little ways, but they were well mannered and behaved themselves.

So , yes, I do believe that many stallions have gotten a bad rep, mostly due to how they have been handled. And while it was very tough to watch the wild stallion kill the foal, nature is cruel at times for the greater good.
 
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