Cattle with hair whorl patterns above the eyes are more behaviourally agitated during restraint (fixation)

Applied Animal Behaviour Science, volume 46 (1995) pages 117 - 123

T. Grandin, M.J. Deesing, J.J. Struthers and A.M. Swinker
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado U.S.A.

Spiral hair whorl position on the forehead may be of value in selecting breeding cattle with a calm temperament. A possible explanation for a relationship between hair whorl position and temperament is the fact that hair patterns in the fetus form at the same time the brain forms. Abnormal hair whorl patterns are found in children with developmental disorders such as Down's Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome. A four-point rating scale was used to assess the temperament of 1500 cattle while they were restrained in a squeeze chute/crush. The four-point rating scale for temperament while being handled was:

The observations were conducted in a commercial feedlot during routine cattle handling for vaccinations and ear tagging. The person observing the animal's reaction in the squeeze chute was positioned so that he could not see the hair whorl on the animal's forehead. Cattle with spiral hair whorls above the eyes were more agitated in the squeeze chute compared to animals with whorls below the eyes (P<0.001). The cattle came from 14 different ranches, so it is unlikely that our findings are due to previous handling experiences. Hair whorl position significantly affected temperament rating during exiting from the squeeze chute in both Bos taurus and Bos indicus x Bos taurus crossbreeds (P<0.04). Cattle with spiral hair whorls high on the forehead appear to be more likely to panic during restraint compared to cattle with low spiral hair whorls.

Click here to return to the Homepage for more information on animal behavior, welfare, and care.