Fearfulness in red junglefowl and domesticated White Leghorn chickens

Behav Processes. 2009 May;81(1):39-43. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.12.018. Epub 2008 Dec 30.


It may be hypothesised that reduced fearfulness has been a major target of selection during domestication. We tested 20 domesticated White Leghorn (WL) chickens and their ancestors, red junglefowl (RJF), in four different fear tests (Open Field, Novel Object, Aerial Predator, and Fear for Humans). The tests were designed to measure reactions to different types of potentially fearful stimuli. The correlations between durations of the same four variables from each of the tests (Stand/sit alert, Locomotion, Fly/jump, and Vocalisation) were analysed with principal components analysis (PCA). In the PCA, 33.5% of the variation in responses was explained by a single factor, interpreted as a general fear factor. Higher scores on this were related to stronger fear reactions. Red junglefowl scored significantly higher than White Leghorns on this factor, and also had a longer latency to feed in the Fear of Humans-test, used as an independent measure of fear in the same tests. The results suggest that selection for low fearfulness has been an important element of domestication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / psychology*
  • Chickens*
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording
  • Vocalization, Animal