Perceptions of animal personality compared with objective measures of animal personality in captive ungulates and carnivores

Rebecca Edwards


The two most widely used methods for animal personality assessment include observational coding of behaviour and the rating of traits through questionnaires. Here the two are assessed side by side in order to determine whether or not they are consistent with one another. Six zoo keepers from one zoo were asked to rate the personality of 12 individuals they cared for. Animals studied included a range of carnivores and ungulate species which consisted of Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos), Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), European pine marten (Martes martes), Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lupus), red deer (Cervus elaphus), European bison (Bison bonasus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), Konik horse (Equus ferus caballus), Soay sheep (Ovis aries) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). Six measures of personality were taken for each individual: keeper rating for personality traits, keeper rating for behaviour traits and observational measures of personality, for the two dimensions neuroticism and extraversion. The dimensions extraversion and neuroticism were used as these are most consistently found across species. Results showed that neither taxa were more extraverted or neurotic than one another across all measures of personality. No significant relationship was found between the observational measures of personality and the keeper scores of personality for both dimensions. This provides evidence to suggest that the two methods of assessing personality traits in captive species do not yield the same results and therefore each method, alone, cannot provide an accurate measure of non-human animal personality.

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