Dixon, S., Evans, D., Vindevoghel, T. et al. 2023. Behaviours expressed by rodeo calves during different phases of roping. Animals 13(3), 343.

There are significant welfare concerns with the use of calves in calf roping (also known as rope-and-tie) events in rodeos. However, little work has been carried out to scientifically assess calves’ behavioural responses to the stressors of these events. This study evaluated video footage of calves (n = 15) during roping events from two rodeos. An ethogram was created to assess behavioural parameters during five phases of a calf roping event: Chase, Lasso, Catch and Restraint, Leg Tie and Release. Six behavioural parameters were observed during each of the five phases: Ear position (Axial or Back Up/Down), Eye White, Leg Movement (Slow/Fast), Tail Position (Rigid/Swish/Relaxed), Vocalisation and Evasive Behaviour. The presence or absence of each behaviour during each phase of roping was documented. Chi-squared analysis found significant (p < 0.001) differences in the proportions of behaviours observed in all five phases of the event. Binary logistic regression was performed, and six behaviours were observed to be significant across all phases: Evasive Behaviour (p < 0.001), Vocalisation (p = 0.002) and Legs Fast (p = 0.016) were more likely to be observed in comparison to Ears Axial, which was used as a reference category. Eye White (p < 0.001), Legs Slow (p < 0.001) and Tail Relaxed (p < 0.001) were less likely to be observed than Ears Axial. This study found that calves exhibit signs of distress in all of the phases of calf roping, including the Release phase.

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