FunNature & AnimalSheep prefer less dominant males when they mate

Sheep prefer less dominant males when they mate

A team of researchers from the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos (Mexico) and the University of the Republic (Uruguay) discovered that, if possible, female sheep prefer to mate with less dominant males. The results of the study were published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science. In addition, in the research, the scientists described the experiments they conducted with the sheep and everything they learned from them.

Previous research

Some previous research has been able to show that male sheep (which are dominant) tend to mate with more sheep than less dominant males. Furthermore, they also tend to have rarer mating behavior than less dominant males. Likewise, other previous studies indicate that some males are so dominant that they cannot physically keep up with that rhythm and run out of sperm.

On the other hand, animal scientists have noted that such strong dominance by males could put a herd at risk. In fact, if it were not for the lack of sperm, they would become inbred and, therefore, less robust and with health problems.

Study development

In this new research, the scientists realized that when dominant males ran out of sperm, females tended to seek out the less dominant males. For this reason, they wondered if the same would happen if females could choose their own mating partner.

To find out, they tied a dominant sheep at one end of a meadow and a more submissive male at the other end. Afterwards, they let in seven sheep that were in heat and let them choose which of the males they preferred as a mating partner. They repeated the test several times with different groups of sheep to be sure.

In this way, the researchers concluded that most females preferred submissive males. Furthermore, in the cases of the females who chose the dominant males, fewer mounts were produced during intercourse. The scientists also found that sheep apparently enjoy the company of less dominant males more. In fact, they spent triple the time together and around twice the time mating.

Thus, scientists consider that evolution has probably caused sheep to choose less dominant males to avoid inbreeding. However, it could also simply be that they prefer to be treated with a little delicacy.

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