Wolves and horses: Can they co-exist?

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To what extent should a prey species, such as the wolf, be preserved when it poses a direct threat to livestock?
To what extent should a prey species, such as the wolf, be preserved when it poses a direct threat to livestock? Photo by Darren Welsh

The relationship between predator and prey is a hotly debated topic among horse people, farmers and land managers. To what extent should a prey species, such as the wolf, be preserved when it poses a direct threat to the livestock in the area?

Does the conservation of the species justify the cost to those who have to live alongside a top predator? And from a horse riders’ point of view, does a wolf present a serious threat to an animal as large as a horse?

The team from Equine Science Talk International delves into this topic in their latest documentary “Are Wolves a Threat to Horses?”

Led by Professor Konstanze Krüger of Nürtingen Geisslingen University in Germany, the team travelled to Italy to meet scientists, horse breeders and owners, farmers and land management authorities in the Abruzzo region. There, wolves have remained part of the landscape and are now making a comeback. They find out how big the threat is, which animals are at risk, and what can be done to protect horses and other prey animals.

They also discover why the wolf is a critical part of the ecosystem, as well as being a money-spinner for the Abruzzo National Park.

Krüger, who directed and narrated the video, said the team was surprised to learn that even those who suffered heavy livestock losses through wolf predation felt the canids should be preserved as they are part of the local ecology.

“When you hear their reasons, it makes perfect sense. We also learned that different wolves specialise in different types of prey, and while it takes a pack to bring down a horse, a lone wolf can attack smaller prey. This may be why horses and wolves often seem to live amazingly peacefully in close proximity.”

The video channel Equine Science Talk International has been created by three German equine scientists who debunk horse behaviour myths and answer some of the most common questions asked by horse owners.

The team includes Krüger, Germany’s first professor of equine science and specialist in horse behaviour and cognition,  and two of her former PhD students, horse trainer and instructor Isabell Marr, and veterinarian and equine dentist Laureen Esch. Their combined expertise gives unique insights into equine science and its practical application.

The videos have been translated from the original German by Austrian-based journalist Kate Farmer, a horse trainer and independent equine behaviour researcher.

Watch more from Equine Science Talk International:

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