“What if I take you apart and turn you into a toaster oven, how would you like that tin can?” 

~Julie Kagawa

I giggle when I see the first initial and most common agonistic behavior between stallions, thus the tongue in cheek quote today!  Can you imagine the conversation between these two stallions as they begin the process of demonstrating the potential for the seven levels of agonistic behavior?  “Dude, who you calling a tin can?”  You get the drift!

Welcome to this series of educational posts on agonistic behavior on horses, with our primary focus on wild horses. Domestic horses will exhibit some of these same agonistic behaviors when living outside with other groups of horses.

These two wild stallions from the southern part of Wyoming are displaying the most common and least intense form of the seven levels of agonistic behavior.  Their arched necks and heads tipped toward each other is a classic example of Level 1 and all because of that sweet, curly filly who clearly holds their fancy.  Even mares will do this type of behavior with other mares, or mares and stallions, those threat behaviors more often are displayed by pinning their ears back and moving their head toward their suspected advisory.  Most dominance issues and conflicts are resolved by these gestures alone and never escalate to the next level.  We often see youngsters exhibiting the different levels of agonism in play, but that isn’t considered threat behavior, it is considered comfort.

Behavior is fascinating to me and I can become so engrossed watching and observing the wilds in their natural element, that I often miss capturing the moment.  Understanding this type of behavior and the ‘tells’ that come with them are a huge asset as a wild horse photographer, along with staying hidden and a respectful distance away (I prefer a hundred yards) which allows the wild horses to exhibit the natural behaviors we all love so much!

Have a beautiful day in your part of the world!  Thank you, as always, from the bottom of my heart, for all your support!  For everything each of you do to tell the story of the wild ones!  I hope their spirit talks to yours and remember…..hold your own wild to its highest form of reverence!  Stay Wild!

Until Next Time – Deb

 “Agonistic behaviour is any social behaviour related to fighting. The term has broader meaning than aggressive behaviour because it includes threats, displays, retreats, placation, and conciliation. The term was coined by Scott and Fredericson in 1951.”

(Resource—Quantifying Equid Behavior)