Article: article from journal or magazin.
Cycle-specific female preferences for visual and non-visual cues in the horse (Equus caballus).
Although female preferences are well studied in many mammals, the possible effects of the oestrous cycle are not yet sufficiently understood. Here we investigate female preferences for visual and non-visual male traits relative to the periodically cycling of sexual proceptivity (oestrus) and inactivity (dioestrus), respectively, in the polygynous horse (Equus caballus). We individually exposed mares to stallions in four experimental situations: (i) mares in oestrus and visual contact to stallions allowed, (ii) mares in oestrus, with blinds (wooden partitions preventing visual contact but allowing for acoustic and olfactory communication), (iii) mares in dioestrus, no blinds, and (iv) mares in dioestrus, with blinds. Contact times of the mares with each stallion, defined as the cumulative amount of time a mare was in the vicinity of an individual stallion and actively searching contact, were used to rank stallions according to each mare's preferences. We found that preferences based on visual traits differed significantly from preferences based on non-visual traits in dioestrous mares. The mares then showed a preference for older and larger males, but only if visual cues were available. In contrast, oestrous mares showed consistent preferences with or without blinds, i.e. their preferences were mainly based on non-visual traits and could not be predicted by male age or size. Stallions who were generally preferred displayed a high libido that may have positively influenced female interest or may have been a consequence of it. We conclude that the oestrous cycle has a significant influence on female preferences for visual and non-visual male traits in the horse.
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