An ethogram of play behavior among equids was developed. Several key English-language studies on equids were reviewed to derive a preliminary inventory of specific behaviors to be included in the ethogram. Our primary observations were based on a herd of semi-feral Shetland-type ponies kept at New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA. Greater than 100h of direct observation and photo-documentation focused specifically on play in order to identify play behaviors to be added to the preliminary inventory and to obtain detailed descriptions of each behavior. Additionally, these observations were supplemented with photographs obtained during several years of observational study of this herd for other purposes, and with the cumulative equid observational experience and study notes of the principal investigator with other equid species. An initial draft was sent out to 18 equine behavior colleagues for review.
A total of 38 individual behaviors classified into four distinct categories were included in the ethogram. These included object play (14 entries), play sexual behavior (3 entries), locomotor play (14 entries) and play fighting (7 entries). All of the behaviors catalogued from direct observation of the herd were also found in the equid literature.
The resulting ethogram offers a practical tool as a field guide or reference for quantitative research and other studies of equid play behavior as well as for teaching of equid behavior.