Behavioural responses of alpacas (Vicugna pacos) to novel objects

Author: J. Kapustka & M. Budzyńska
Year: 2023
Issue: 2
Volume: 53
Page: 211 - 220

In recent years, keeping alpacas has becoming increasingly popular. However, little research has been conducted on their behaviour. The study aimed to assess behavioural responses of alpacas towards novel objects as a step toward a practical test including novelty and suddenness. Thirty-two alpacas of different age, sex, and coat colour were each exposed to the novel object where four single objects (a cardboard box, a ball, a suddenly-opened umbrella, and a moving toy car) were presented. Behaviour was rated by use of a five-point score. The latency (time between the appearance of the object to the animal’s sniffing and/or touching the object) and the frequency of contact with the novel object were recorded. The moving toy car caused the strongest fear reaction in older females. The box was the most explored object by animals of all ages and sex. The lowest latency values and the most frequent contact with the novel object were found in white alpacas exposed to the box. Spearman’s correlations indicated a negative relationship between behavioural scores and latency values and a positive correlation between behavioural scores and frequency of contact with the novel object. Alpaca behaviour score, latency, and frequency of contact differed among the novel objects evaluated. A combination of novelty and suddenness can intensify the alpaca’s reaction. A relationship between coat colour and behavioural reactivity may occur in alpacas and if confirmed by genetic analysis, could be used for genetic selection. A novel object test can be used to measure fearfulness/curiosity in alpacas and evaluate behavioural predispositions for activities, including alpaca-assisted therapy.

Keywords: alpaca, behaviour, novel stimulus, reactivity
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