Vol 4, Issue 4, November 2017

Social Class and Group Size as Predictors of Behavior in Male Equus kiang


Kannan, P.M., & Parsons, M.H. (2017). Social class and group size as predictors of behavior in male Equus kiang. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 4(4), 442-454. https://dx.doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Ethograms provide a systematic approach to identify and quantify the repertoire of behaviors of an organism. This information may assist animal welfare in zoos, increase awareness of conservation needs, and help curb high-risk behaviors during human-wildlife conflict. Our primary objective was to utilize an equid ethogram to produce activity budgets for Equus kiang males, a social ungulate that is among the least-studied mammals worldwide, and unknown to the ethological literature. We recently reported the existence of three social classes of this species; Territorial males, Bachelor males and ‘Transient’ males. Therefore, our secondary objective was to compare activity budgets in each of these three groups. We found that kiang spent >70% of their time performing six behaviors: vigilance (34%), locomotion (24.2%), resting (14.2%), mixed foraging (12.5%), browsing (5.1%), and antagonism (1.1%). Over 2% of the total behavioral investment was spent on olfactory investigations (genital sniffing, sniffing proximity and flehmen). Eleven of the eighteen behaviors differed by class. Habitat selection differed strongly by each group, with Territorial males favoring mesic sites with greater vegetation abundance. Vigilance also differed according to habitat selection, but not group size. Animals in the xeric, least vegetation-rich area were far less vigilant than animals at more attractive sites. We found that the full repertoire of behaviors, and relative investments in each, differ according to social class. These findings are a reminder that researchers should make every effort to disambiguate social class among ungulates– and other taxa where behaviors are class-dependent.


Activity budget, Equus kiang, Social class, Social ungulate, Tibetan wild ass, Trans-Himalayan fauna