Equine Science Update
Reports from the world of  equine research.
Preference for water bowls.
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Do horses have a preference for different types of automatic water bowls? One study found a clear preference for one particular model in young horses that had not previously encountered them.

The study, carried out in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, looked at four different automatic water bowls. In two bowls, a float valve maintained the water level. As the horse drank, the water bowl refilled automatically. Two bowls were filled by a “push valve”. These filled only when the horse pushed against a plate, which released the water. Little water remained in the bowl after use.

Yearling horses were used in the study. They had been used to drinking from water troughs and had not previously encountered automatic water bowls. During the study, the automatic water bowls were the only source of water. The position of the bowls was changed every 48 hours.

The researchers measured the water consumption from each of the bowls.  One group of eight horses preferred either of the float valve bowls but took almost no water from either of the push valve bowls.

A second group of eleven horses showed a similar dislike of the push valve water bowls. They also tended to prefer the larger of the two float valve bowls. This finding was confirmed when the study was repeated with three individual horses. The research team found that significantly more water was taken from the larger float valve bowl*.

Why did the horses prefer this particular model? Of the four water bowls, this one had the largest, most open bowl. It kept more water in it at all times.  It also made the least noise when refilling. The researchers noted that the horses tended to be startled by the noise and sudden inflow of water with the push valve bowls.

They are now studying the feasibility of using the SB NT 100 water bowl as an on-board watering system for horses being transported over long-distances.

*Lister SB NT 100

For more details see:

A note on the preference of naive horses for different water bowls.
PD Krawczel, TH Friend, R Johnson.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science (2006) 100, 309 - 313.
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