A free-ranging, feral mare Equus caballus affords similar maternal care to her genetic and adopted offspring


Adoption of nongenetic offspring occurs in a variety of species but is rare in equids. We report a case of adoption by a freeranging, feral mare Equus caballus and compare the maternal care received by her genetic offspring (born 1995) to that of her adopted offspring (born 1996) for the first 30 weeks of development. We compare five measures of care: (1) total time spent suckling, (2) mare aggression during suckling, (3) number of mare-terminated suckling bouts, (4) contact maintenance, and (5) mare-foal distance. For most behaviors, we detected no difference in the mare's treatment of the two foals; however, mare-foal distance was greater for the genetic offspring. We compare hypotheses regarding the reasons for adoption, offering postpartum physiological state as a potential driver. © 2013 by The University of Chicago.

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American Naturalist