Burn CC, Dennison TL, Whay HR (2009) Environmental and demographic risk factors for poor welfare in working horses, donkeys and mules in developing countries.
Over 85% of equids live in developing countries, where they are usually used for work. We aimed to identify environmental factors associated with potential welfare problems in working equids, helping target welfare interventions towards the most vulnerable animals.
Over five years, non-invasive behavioural and physical data were collected from 5,481 donkeys, 4,504 horses, and 858 mules across nine developing countries. Hoof and limb problems were over 90% prevalent, and 85% of equids were thin.
Older, thinner animals had the most problems, and species differences in susceptibility were found. Equids used to transport people by cart, to carry goods by pack, or to work in bricks kilns had more problems than other horses, donkeys and mules.
Rural equids had more problems than urban ones, but urban equids had more lesions, and were more aggressive towards observers. Equids were significantly thinner when climates were warmer. These results should aid the development and targeting of specific welfare interventions.
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