A note on hair whorl position and cattle temperament in the auction ring

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73 (2001) 93-101

Jennifer L. Lanier, Temple Grandin, Ronald Green, David Avery, Kasie McGee
Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, CO 80523-1171, USA

Accepted 10 February 2001


The objective of this study was to further describe the relationships between facial hair whorls and temperament in cattle. Cattle (n = 1636) from six commercial cattle auctions in Colorado and Texas were observed. Whorl location was classified according to lateral position (left, right, or middle) and height (high: above the top of the eye, middle: at eye level, low: below the bottom of the eye). A 4-point temperament score was used to rate each animal while it was in the auction ring. Cattle with a score of 1 remained calm and stood still or walked around, and those with a score of 4 were highly agitated and hit the ring fence, walls, partitions, or people with its head. The cattle observed were 75% Bos taurus beef breeds, 21% Holstein dairy cattle, 3% Bos indicus beef breeds, and 1% non-Holstein dairy breeds. Ten percent of cattle surveyed had no facial hair whorl, while 86% had a single spiral hair whorl, of which 47% had middle-middle whorl placement. Animals with a high whorl position or no hair whorl had higher temperament scores (P = 0.01). Cattle with low whorls were more likely to have greater lateral displacement of whorls off of the centerline than cattle with high or middle whorls (P < 0.01). Abnormally shaped whorls were more common on cattle with low whorls (P < 0.01) and on cattle with lateral whorls located off of the centerline (P < 0.01). Cattle with hair whorls on the centerline had more variable temperament scores (P =0.04). Beef cattle had more abnormal whorls than Holsteins (P < 0.01). Temperament scores showed that Holsteins were calmer than beef cattle (P < 0.01). Facial hair whorls in cattle may be a useful management tool in assessing which animals may become disturbed in novel environments.

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