Relationship between anatomical characteristics and personality traits in Lipizzan horses

Sci Rep. 2022 Jul 23;12(1):12618. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-16627-z.


We tested 35 Lipizzan horses older than 5 years, ridden and healthy in three behavioural tests (handling, fear-reaction, and target training test). Physiological (heart rate and heart rate variability) and anatomical measurements (120 head and body distances and angles) were collected to validate parameters that reliably inform on handling/cooperation, fear/exploration and trainability in horses. Utilizing a standard clustering methodology on the behavioural data, we identified four general types of responses and categorised an individual as intermediate, low fearful, horses with low cooperation or low trainability. We additionally analysed the head morphology following Tellington-Jones and Taylor recommendations and correlated the measurements with data from a horse personality questionnaire. Although allocation to a particular personality group was not associated with these two methods, these groups differed in six anatomical characteristics of head and body. Regardless of the group, our results indicated that shorter horses (<75.9 cm) with a wider muzzle (>10.5 cm) are trustworthy, less fearful and easier to handle and train. We also demonstrated that horses with stronger legs and a wider base of the head have a lower heart rate when exposed to the second trial of the handling test.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Fear
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Horses* / psychology
  • Personality*