Behavioral and endocrine correlates of dominance in captive female Jackson’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Kelly S. Spratt, Jeffrey S. Spratt, Joan E. Bauman, Charles Ray Chandler
Zoo Biology
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For species that form dominance hierarchies, such as group-living ungulates, aggressive interactions can pose a challenge to successful captive management. For example, Jackson’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), a rare antelope of east Africa, can be difficult to maintain in captivity because aggression within female dominance hierarchies can lead to injury and death. We quantified behavioral and endocrine correlates of dominance in a captive herd of ten female hartebeest with the goal of understanding how to minimize dangerous interactions. We observed hartebeest for 18 months in a 4-ha enclosure on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. We quantified type of agonistic behavior, initiator and recipient of the behavior, who displaced whom, and age and relative size of participants. We also used fecal steroid analysis to take weekly measurements of corticoids, a hormonal correlate of stress. Hartebeest maintained a stable, linear dominance hierarchy. Only 5.9% of interactions were reversals of established rank. Most dominance interactions were low intensity, but 17.3% of interactions carried a high risk of injury (chase, horn butt, horn clash, horn clash on knees, and head push). High-ranking individuals usually initiated interactions. Most interactions were between animals of similar rank, and animals of intermediate rank participated in the highest number of interactions. The frequency of high-intensity interactions was unrelated to rank. Rank was correlated with age, but not size. There was no relationship between rank and fecal corticoid levels. Dominance interactions in hartebeest are not a function of social instability, and the frequency of dangerous interactions is not a function of rank.


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