Stephenson, E., Haskell, M. J. 2022. 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). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 25(1), 62-74.
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.