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Doctoral thesis2016Open access

Investigating anticipatory behaviours in lambs

Anderson, Claes


Many animals kept by humans receive cues that predict future events for example food or being let out. The interval between cue and future event may however be delayed. In the best of worlds, animals may not experience such waiting as negative and it is even suggested that the anticipation following such cues is experienced as pleasurable. The aim of this thesis was to investigate anticipatory behaviours in lambs; how they are expressed for different future events and if it is possible to distinguish suggested positive emotions from more negative emotions such as frustration and perceived lack of control. The first study investigated how lambs respond behaviourally during anticipation for either food or opportunity to play, which were the two rewards in this study. Our results show that both rewards resulted in more locomotion and behavioural transitions than a control group, and these two variables were expressed the most by lambs anticipating food. In the second study lambs were conditioned to anticipate either a positive (food) or a negative (squirt of water) event. Lambs anticipating the positive event approached and kept their head in the direction of where the food would be presented. Contrary, lambs anticipating the negative event moved to the distance, and faced away from where the water would come. Following this, the interval between cue and food was increased (to 3 min) in an attempt to induce frustration, however, indicators of frustration were scarce. The third study investigated if lambs experience a lack of control during anticipation as there is nothing they can do to access the reward. Lambs were conditioned either to associate a cue with a forthcoming food reward, or trained to perform a task in order to obtain the reward. Following this training, the interval between cue/task and reward was increased. Lambs trained to associate the cue with the reward spent more time waiting by the food bowl, while lambs that could affect the food presentation repeated the task. In conclusion, the studies in this thesis have found that: 1) Anticipatory behaviours may reflect the rewarding value of the anticipated event, 2) Anticipated rewards, just like actual rewards, result in a motivation to either approach or avoid, depending on the nature of the anticipated event, 3) Lambs may not experience a three minute waiting period as frustrating, and, 4) Both predictability and controllability may influence behaviours during anticipation in lambs.


Lambs; Anticipatory behaviours; Pavlovian conditioning; Emotions; Reward; Aversive stimuli; Frustration; Control

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2016, number: 2016:107
ISBN: 978-91-576-8717-3, eISBN: 978-91-576-8718-0
Publisher: Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    Associated SLU-program

    Centre of Excellence in Animal Welfare Science

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Behavioral Sciences Biology

    Permanent link to this page (URI)