Does cribbing behavior in horses vary with dietary taste or direct gastric stimuli?

21Apr2017

Concentrated feed diets have been shown to drastically increase the rate of the cribbing, an oral stereotypy in horses, but the specific component causing the rise has not been identified. Furthermore, the mechanism through which feed affects cribbing has not been explored. 

In the first experiment of this study, we quantified the latency to crib and number of cribs in 15 min after the horses tasted various grain, sugar, and artificial sweetener solutions. 

Undiluted grain stimulated the most cribs (P < 0.01) compared with all other solutions, and shortest latency to crib, although this was significantly higher only when compared with diluted grain (P = 0.03). 

In Experiment 2, latency to crib and number of cribs in 15 min after the grain and sugar solutions were administered via nasograstric tube were also evaluated. 

There were no statistical differences among cribbing responses to grain, fructose, and water administered directly to the stomach although grain stimulated cribbing behavior more quickly than 10% fructose (P = 0.03) and 100% tap water (P = 0.04). 

These results confirm that highly palatable diets, possibly mediated through the opioid and dopaminergic systems, are one of the most potent inducers of cribbing behavior. The highly palatable taste remains the probable “cribogenic” factor of concentrated diet, although gastric and post-gastric effects cannot be excluded.

Julia Albright, Xiaocun Sun, Katherine Houpt, "Does cribbing behavior in horses vary with dietary taste or direct gastric stimuli?", Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 189, April 2017, Pages 36–40, http://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.01.015