The Use of a “Go/Go” Cognitive Bias Task and Response to a Novel Object to Assess the Effect of Housing Enrichment in Sheep (Ovis aries)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Emma Stephenson, Marie J Haskell
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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It is widely acknowledged that environmental enrichment can improve animals’ welfare and emotional state. This study used cognitive bias and response to a novel object to assess the effect of enriched housing on emotional state in sheep. Eighteen sheep were trained to discriminate between high-quality and low-quality reward locations using a go/go task. Sheep were allocated to a housing treatment (enriched or standard) for three weeks. Judgment bias tests were conducted using three ambiguous, unrewarded locations across three days, followed by assessing responses to a novel object. Effects of anxiety levels shown in training on responses to ambiguous locations and to the presence of a novel object were assessed. Enriched-housed sheep tended to have shorter latencies to approach ambiguous positions than standard-housed sheep (P = 0.08), particularly to the near and middle locations. Sheep from standard housing tended to have shorter latencies to approach food with the novel object present than sheep from enriched hosing (P = 0.06). This study shows that enrichment can affect emotional state and that go/go tasks can be successful in sheep and should be considered in future studies of emotional state.


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