A stallion is a male horse that has not been gelded (castrated). Stallions follow the conformation and phenotype of their breed, but within that standard, the presence of hormones such as testosterone may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck, as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to female horses, known as mares, and castrated males, called geldings.
Temperament varies widely based on genetics, and training, but because of their instincts as herd animals, they may be prone to aggressive behavior, particularly toward other stallions, and thus require careful management by knowledgeable handlers. However, with proper training and management, stallions are effective equine athletes at the highest levels of many disciplines, including horse racing, horse shows, and international Olympic competition.
The term "stallion" dates from the era of Henry VII, who passed a number of laws relating to the breeding and export of horses in an attempt to improve the British stock, under which it was forbidden to allow uncastrated male horses to be turned out in fields or on the commons; they had to be "kept within bounds and tied in stalls." (The term "stallion" for an uncastrated male horse dates from this time; stallion = stalled one.)"Stallion" is also used to refer to males of other equids, including zebras and donkeys.
Contrary to popular myths, many stallions do not live with a harem of mares. Nor, in natural settings, do they fight each other to the death in competition for mares. Being social animals, stallions who are not able to find or win a harem of mares usually band together in stallions-only "bachelor" groups which are composed of stallions of all ages. Even with a band of mares, the stallion is not the leader of a herd but defends and protects the herd from predators and other stallions. The leadership role in a herd is held by a mare, known colloquially as the "lead mare" or "boss mare." The mare determines the movement of the herd as it travels to obtain food, water, and shelter. She also determines the route the herd takes when fleeing from danger. When the herd is in motion, the dominant stallion herds the straggling members closer to the group and acts as a "rear guard" between the herd and a potential source of danger. When the herd is at rest, all members share the responsibility of keeping watch for danger. The stallion is usually on the edge of the group, to defend the herd if needed.
There is usually one dominant mature stallion for every mixed-sex herd of horses. The dominant stallion in the herd will tolerate both sexes of horses while young, but once they become sexually mature, often as yearlings or two-year-olds, the stallion will drive both colts and fillies from the herd. Colts may present competition for the stallion, but studies suggest that driving off young horses of both sexes may also be an instinctive behavior that minimizes the risk of inbreeding within the herd, as most young are the offspring of the dominant stallion in the group. In some cases, a single younger mature male may be tolerated on the fringes of the herd. One theory is that this young male is considered a potential successor, as in time the younger stallion will eventually drive out the older herd stallion.
Fillies usually soon join a different band with a dominant stallion different from the one that sired them. Colts or young stallions without mares of their own usually form small, all-male, "bachelor bands" in the wild. Living in a group gives these stallions the social and protective benefits of living in a herd. A bachelor herd may also contain older stallions who have lost their herd in a challenge.
Other stallions may directly challenge a herd stallion, or may simply attempt to "steal" mares and form a new, smaller herd. In either case, if the two stallions meet, there rarely is a true fight; more often there will be bluffing behavior and the weaker horse will back off. Even if a fight for dominance occurs, rarely do opponents hurt each other in the wild because the weaker combatant has a chance to flee. Fights between stallions in captivity may result in serious injuries; fences and other forms of confinement make it more difficult for the losing animal to safely escape. In the wild, feral stallions have been known to steal or mate with domesticated mares.
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The stallion's reproductive system is responsible for his sexual behavior and secondary sex characteristics (such as a large crest). The external genitalia comprise:
The internal genitalia comprise the accessory sex glands, which include the vesicular glands, the prostate gland and the bulbourethral glands.These contribute fluid to the semen at ejaculation, but are not strictly necessary for fertility.
Domesticated stallions are trained and managed in a variety of ways, depending on the region of the world, the owner's philosophy, and the individual stallion's temperament. In all cases, however, stallions have an inborn tendency to attempt to dominate both other horses and human handlers, and will be affected to some degree by proximity to other horses, especially mares in heat. They must be trained to behave with respect toward humans at all times or else their natural aggressiveness, particularly a tendency to bite, may pose a danger of serious injury.
For this reason, regardless of management style, stallions must be treated as individuals and should only be handled by people who are experienced with horses and thus recognize and correct inappropriate behavior before it becomes a danger.While some breeds are of a more gentle temperament than others, and individual stallions may be well-behaved enough to even be handled by inexperienced people for short periods of time, common sense must always be used. Even the most gentle stallion has natural instincts that may overcome human training. As a general rule, children should not handle stallions, particularly in a breeding environment.
Management of stallions usually follows one of the following models: confinement or "isolation" management, where the stallion is kept alone, or in management systems variously called "natural", "herd", or "pasture" management where the stallion is allowed to be with other horses. In the "harem" model, the stallion is allowed to run loose with mares akin to that of a feral or semi-feral herd. In the "bachelor herd" model, stallions are kept in a male-only group of stallions, or, in some cases, with stallions and geldings. Sometime stallions may periodically be managed in multiple systems, depending on the season of the year.
The advantage of natural types of management is that the stallion is allowed to behave "like a horse" and may exhibit fewer stable vices. In a harem model, the mares may "cycle" or achieve estrus more readily. Proponents of natural management also assert that mares are more likely to "settle" (become pregnant) in a natural herd setting. Some stallion managers keep a stallion with a mare herd year-round, others will only turn a stallion out with mares during the breeding season.
In some places, young domesticated stallions are allowed to live separately in a "bachelor herd" while growing up, kept out of sight, sound or smell of mares. A Swiss study demonstrated that even mature breeding stallions kept well away from other horses could live peacefully together in a herd setting if proper precautions were taken while the initial herd hierarchy was established.
As an example, in the New Forest, England, breeding stallions run out on the open Forest for about two to three months each year with the mares and youngstock. On being taken off the Forest, many of them stay together in bachelor herds for most of the rest of the year.New Forest stallions, when not in their breeding work, take part on the annual round-ups, working alongside mares and geldings, and compete successfully in many disciplines.
There are drawbacks to natural management, however. One is that the breeding date, and hence foaling date, of any given mare will be uncertain. Another problem is the risk of injury to the stallion or mare in the process of natural breeding, or the risk of injury while a hierarchy is established within an all-male herd. Some stallions become very anxious or temperamental in a herd setting and may lose considerable weight, sometimes to the point of a health risk. Some may become highly protective of their mares and thus more aggressive and dangerous to handle. There is also a greater risk that the stallion may escape from a pasture or be stolen. Stallions may break down fences between adjoining fields to fight another stallion or mate with the "wrong" herd of mares, thus putting the pedigree of ensuing foals in question.
The other general method of managing stallions is to confine them individually, sometimes in a small pen or corral with a tall fence, other times in a stable, or, in certain places, in a small field (or paddock) with a strong fence. The advantages to individual confinement include less of a risk of injury to the stallion or to other horses, controlled periods for breeding mares, greater certainty of what mares are bred when, less risk of escape or theft, and ease of access by humans. Some stallions are of such a temperament, or develop vicious behavior due to improper socialization or poor handling, that they must be confined and cannot be kept in a natural setting, either because they behave in a dangerous manner toward other horses, or because they are dangerous to humans when loose.
The drawbacks to confinement vary with the details of the actual method used, but stallions kept out of a herd setting require a careful balance of nutrition and exercise for optimal health and fertility. Lack of exercise can be a serious concern; stallions without sufficient exercise may not only become fat, which may reduce both health and fertility, but also may become aggressive or develop stable vices due to pent-up energy. Some stallions within sight or sound of other horses may become aggressive or noisy, calling or challenging other horses. This sometimes is addressed by keeping stallions in complete isolation from other animals.
However, complete isolation has significant drawbacks; stallions may develop additional behavior problems with aggression due to frustration and pent-up energy. As a general rule, a stallion that has been isolated from the time of weaning or sexual maturity will have a more difficult time adapting to a herd environment than one allowed to live close to other animals. However, as horses are instinctively social creatures, even stallions are believed to benefit from being allowed social interaction with other horses, though proper management and cautions are needed.
Some managers attempt to compromise between the two methods by providing stallions daily turnout by themselves in a field where they can see, smell, and hear other horses. They may be stabled in a barn where there are bars or a grille between stalls where they can look out and see other animals. In some cases, a stallion may be kept with or next to a gelding or a nonhorse companion animal such as a goat, a gelded donkey, a cat, or other creature.
Properly trained stallions can live and work close to mares and to one another. Examples include the Lipizzan stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, where the entire group of stallions live part-time in a bachelor herd as young colts, then are stabled, train, perform, and travel worldwide as adults with few if any management problems. However, even stallions who are unfamiliar with each other can work safely in reasonable proximity if properly trained; the vast majority of Thoroughbred horses on the racetrack are stallions, as are many equine athletes in other forms of competition. Stallions are often shown together in the same ring at horse shows, particularly in halter classes where their conformation is evaluated. In horse show performance competition, stallions and mares often compete in the same arena with one another, particularly in Western and English "pleasure"-type classes where horses are worked as a group. Overall, stallions can be trained to keep focused on work and may be brilliant performers if properly handled.
A breeding stallion is more apt to present challenging behavior to a human handler than one who has not bred mares, and stallions may be more difficult to handle in spring and summer, during the breeding season, than during the fall and winter. However, some stallions are used for both equestrian uses and for breeding at the same general time of year. Though compromises may need to be made in expectations for both athletic performance and fertility rate, well-trained stallions with good temperaments can be taught that breeding behavior is only allowed in a certain area, or with certain cues, equipment, or with a particular handler.However, some stallions lack the temperament to focus on work if also breeding mares in the same general time period, and therefore are taken out of competition either temporarily or permanently to be used for breeding. When permitted by a breed registry, use of artificial insemination is another technique that may reduce behavior problems in stallions.
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Attitudes toward stallions vary between different parts of the world. In some parts of the world, the practice of gelding is not widespread and stallions are common. In other places, most males are gelded and only a few stallions are kept as breeding stock. Horse breeders who produce purebred bloodstock often recommend that no more than the top 10 percent of all males be allowed to reproduce, to continually improve a given breed of horse.
People sometimes have inaccurate beliefs about stallions, both positive and negative. Some beliefs are that stallions are always mean and vicious or uncontrollable; other beliefs are that misbehaving stallions should be allowed to misbehave because they are being "natural", "spirited" or "noble." In some cases, fed by movies and fictional depictions of horses in literature, some people believe a stallion can bond to a single human individual to the exclusion of all others. However, like many other misconceptions, there is only partial truth to these beliefs. Some, though not all stallions can be vicious or hard to handle, occasionally due to genetics, but usually due to improper training. Others are very well-trained and have excellent manners. Misbehaving stallions may look pretty or be exhibiting instinctive behavior, but it can still become dangerous if not corrected. Some stallions do behave better for some people than others, but that can be true of some mares and geldings, as well.
In some parts of Asia and the Middle East, the riding of stallions is widespread, especially among male riders. The gelding of stallions is unusual, viewed culturally as either unnecessary or unnatural. In areas where gelding is not widely practised, stallions are still not needed in numbers as great as mares, and so many will be culled, either sold for horsemeat or simply sold to traders who will take them outside the area. Of those that remain, many will not be used for breeding purposes.
In Europe, Australia, and the Americas, keeping stallions is less common, primarily confined to purebred animals that are usually trained and placed into competition to test their quality as future breeding stock. The majority of stallions are gelded at an early age and then trained for use as everyday working or riding animals.
If a stallion is not to be used for breeding, gelding the male horse will allow it to live full-time in a herd with both males and females, reduce aggressive or disruptive behavior, and allow the horse to be around other animals without being seriously distracted.If a horse is not to be used for breeding, it can be gelded prior to reaching sexual maturity. A horse gelded young may grow taller and behave better if this is done. Older stallions that are sterile or otherwise no longer used for breeding may also be gelded and will exhibit calmer behavior, even if previously used for breeding. However, they are more likely to continue stallion-like behaviors than horses gelded at a younger age, especially if they have been used as a breeding stallion. Modern surgical techniques allow castration to be performed on a horse of almost any age with relatively few risks.
In most cases, particularly in modern industrialized cultures, a male horse that is not of sufficient quality to be used for breeding will have a happier life without having to deal with the instinctive, hormone-driven behaviors that come with being left intact. Geldings are safer to handle and present fewer management problems. [ citation needed ]They are also more widely accepted. Many boarding stables will refuse clients with stallions or charge considerably more money to keep them. Some types of equestrian activity, such as events involving children, or clubs that sponsor purely recreational events such as trail riding, may not permit stallions to participate.
However, just as some pet owners may have conflicting emotions about neutering a male dog or cat, some stallion owners may be unsure about gelding a stallion. One branch of the animal rights community maintains that castration is mutilation and damaging to the animal's psyche.
A ridgling or "rig" is a cryptorchid, a stallion which has one or both testicles undescended. If both testicles are not descended, the horse may appear to be a gelding, but will still behave like a stallion. A gelding that displays stallion-like behaviors is sometimes called a "false rig".In many cases, ridglings are infertile, or have fertility levels that are significantly reduced. The condition is most easily corrected by gelding the horse. A more complex and costly surgical procedure can sometimes correct the condition and restore the animal's fertility, though it is only cost-effective for a horse that has very high potential as a breeding stallion. This surgery generally removes the non-descended testicle, leaving the descended testicle, and creating a horse known as a monorchid stallion. Keeping cryptorchids or surgically-created monorchids as breeding stallions is controversial, as the condition is at least partially genetic and some handlers claim that cryptorchids tend to have greater levels of behavioral problems than normal stallions.
Horse breeding is reproduction in horses, and particularly the human-directed process of selective breeding of animals, particularly purebred horses of a given breed. Planned matings can be used to produce specifically desired characteristics in domesticated horses. Furthermore, modern breeding management and technologies can increase the rate of conception, a healthy pregnancy, and successful foaling.
A hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. It is the reciprocal cross to the more common mule, which is the product of a male donkey and a female horse. The hinny is distinctive from the mule both in physiology and temperament as a consequence of genomic imprinting.
A gelding is a castrated horse or other equine, such as a donkey or a mule. Castration, as well as the elimination of hormonally driven behavior associated with a stallion, allows a male horse to be calmer and better-behaved, making the animal quieter, gentler and potentially more suitable as an everyday working animal. The gerund and participle "gelding" and the infinitive "to geld" refer to the castration procedure itself.
A foal is an equine up to one year old; this term is used mainly for horses. More specific terms are colt for a male foal and filly for a female foal, and are used until the horse is three or four. When the foal is nursing from its great (mother), it may also be called a "suckling". After it has been weaned from its dam, it may be called a "weanling". When a mare is pregnant, she is said to be "in foal". When the mare gives birth, she is "foaling", and the impending birth is usually stated as "to foal". A newborn horse is "foaled".
A colt is a male horse, usually below the age of four years.
A stud animal is a registered animal retained for breeding. The terms for the male of a given animal species usually imply that the animal is intact—that is, not castrated—and therefore capable of siring offspring. A specialized vocabulary exists for de-sexed animals and those animals used in grading up to a purebred status.
A mare is an adult female horse or other equine.
A stud farm or stud in animal husbandry is an establishment for selective breeding of livestock. The word "stud" comes from the Old English stod meaning "herd of horses, place where horses are kept for breeding". Historically, documentation of the breedings that occur on a stud farm leads to the development of a stud book. Male animals made available for breeding to outside female animals are said to be "standing at stud", or at "stud service", referencing the relatively high probability that they are kept at a stud farm.
A feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated stock. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. However, some populations of feral horses are managed as wildlife, and these horses often are popularly called "wild" horses. Feral horses are descended from domestic horses that strayed, escaped, or were deliberately released into the wild and remained to survive and reproduce there. Away from humans, over time, these animals' patterns of behavior revert to behavior more closely resembling that of wild horses. Some horses that live in a feral state but may be occasionally handled or managed by humans, particularly if privately owned, are referred to as "semi-feral".
Horse behavior is best understood from the view that horses are prey animals with a well-developed fight-or-flight response. Their first reaction to a threat is often to flee, although sometimes they stand their ground and defend themselves or their offspring in cases where flight is untenable, such as when a foal would be threatened.
Stable vices are stereotypies of equines, especially horses. They are usually undesirable habits that often develop as a result of being confined in a stable with insufficient exercise, boredom, hunger, excess energy or isolation. They present a management issue, not only leading to facility damage from chewing, kicking, and repetitive motion, but also lead to health consequences for the animal if not addressed. They also raise animal welfare concerns.
The American Cream Draft is the only draft horse breed developed in the United States that is still in existence. A rare horse breed today, it is recognized by its cream color, known as "gold champagne", produced by the action of the champagne gene upon a chestnut base color, and by its amber eyes, also characteristic of the gene; the only other color found in the breed is chestnut. Like several other breeds of draft horses, the American Cream is at risk for the autosomal recessive genetic disease junctional epidermolysis bullosa.
A ridgling, or rig, is a cryptorchid; a male animal with one or both testicles undescended, usually describing a ram, bull, or male horse, but cryptorchidism also can be an issue in dogs and cats. Because the heat inside the body is too high for sperm to survive, an undescended testicle is non-functional. The condition is most often discussed in the horse world, as the health behavioral issues surrounding adult males with the condition are of concern to owners and handlers of such animals.
Contagious equine metritis (CEM) is a type of metritis in horses that is caused by a sexually transmitted infection. It is thus an equine venereal disease of the genital tract of horses, brought on by the Taylorella equigenitalis bacteria and spread through sexual contact. The disease was first reported in 1977, and has since been reported worldwide.
A yearling is a young horse either male or female that is between one and two years old. Yearlings are comparable in development to a very early adolescent and are not fully mature physically. While they may be in the earliest stages of sexual maturity, they are considered too young to be breeding stock.
Studbook selection is a process used in certain breeds of horses to select breeding stock. It allows a breed registry to direct the evolution of the breed towards the ideal by eliminating unhealthy or undesirable animals from the population. The removal of individuals from a population is called culling, and does not suggest killing the animal in question. Typically, culls are castrated or they and their offspring are unable to be registered.
This is a basic glossary of equestrian terms that includes both technical terminology and jargon developed over the centuries for horses and other equidae, as well as various horse-related concepts. Where noted, some terms are used only in American English (US), only in British English (UK), or are regional to a particular part of the world, such as Australia (AU).
A bull is an intact adult male of the species Bos taurus. More muscular and aggressive than the females of the species, the cows, bulls have long been an important symbol in many cultures, and play a significant role in beef ranching, dairy farming, and a variety of other cultural activities, including bull fighting and bull riding.
The Pryor Mountain mustang is a substrain of mustang considered to be genetically unique and one of the few strains of horses verified by DNA analysis to be descended from the original Colonial Spanish Horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. They live on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range located in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming in the United States, and are the only mustang herd remaining in Montana. They are protected by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHBA) and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who has set the optimum herd number at 120 animals. Genetic studies have revealed that the herd exhibits a high degree of genetic diversity and a low degree of inbreeding, and BLM has acknowledged the genetic uniqueness of the herd. Pryor Mountain Mustangs are relatively small horses, exhibit a natural ambling gait, and domesticated Pryor Mountain mustangs are known for their strength, sure-footedness and stamina. The Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range is one of the most accessible areas to view feral horse herds in the United States and tourism to the area has increased in recent years.
Almost all mammal penises have foreskins or prepuce, although in non-human cases the foreskin is usually a sheath into which the whole penis is retracted. In koalas, the foreskin contains naturally occurring bacteria that play an important role in fertilization. In some bat species, the prepuce contains an erectile tissue structure called the accessory corpus cavernosus.