Abnormal Repetitive Behaviour in captive animals

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'Abnormal repetitive behaviour' (ARB) is a broad term covering all the strange-looking repetitive behaviours below. Many are known 'stereotypic behaviours', i.e. demonstrably caused by the frustration of natural behaviour patterns, impaired brain function, or repeated attempts to deal with some problem; but for the remainder, information on the biological causes is currently ambiguous or unavailable.  The more precise label 'stereotypy' has been suggested to apply to the sub-set of stereotypic behaviours for which there is good evidence of malfunctioning motor control similar to that seen in amphetamine-induced stereotypy (e.g. the back-flips and somersaults of caged deer mice). The terms 'compulsive behaviour'  and 'impulsive behaviour' have been cautiously applied to other sub-sets: forms of malfunction akin to those seen in, respectively, certain types of human OCD and the hyper-locomotion induced by amphetamine-like drugs.

Whatever their precise classifications, the ARBs below illustrate both the recurring themes (e.g. route-tracing, bar-mouthing) and the diversity seen in the ARBs of different captive animals. Some forms seem 'laid back' and relaxed (e.g. Sophie Vickery's pacing jaguar and brown bear), but others seem frantic (e.g. Joe Garner's twirling lab. mice, and the 'waltzing monkey' from Born Free's archives). Some are rather variable in expression (e.g. Sebastian McBride's crib-biting horse, María Díez Léon's 'restless  mink' and the cage-lid climbing of Megan Jones' African striped mice), while others show a near-clockwork precision (e.g. Melinda Novak's pacing rhesus monkey, and Brian Seaton's bear with its well-trodden footprints). What causes this diversity? The difference between normal animals in un-natural situations, and animals which have themselves become profoundly abnormal? Between newly-developed ARBs and ingrained habits? Between different forms of brain malfunction? As yet, we have rather more hunches than we do hard data.

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Ungulates

Cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and their wild relatives are particularly prone to oral/oro-nasal ARBs. For some of the diverse attempts that  humans make to curb equine stereotypic behaviours, see 'Supplementary material' above.
Photos

Crib-biting horse
(Amanda Badnell-Waters)

Crib-biting horse
(Christine Nicol)

Bar-biting horse
(Georgia Mason)

Wood-chewing horse
(Source unknown)

Wood-chewing horse
(Source unknown)

Trees stripped by horses
(Daniel Mills)

Wood-chewing horse
(Amanda Badnell-Waters)

Bar-biting sow
(Willem Schouten)

Bar-biting sow
(Source unknown)

Bar-biting sow (Renée Bergeron)

Bar-biting sow
(Willem Schouten)

Bar-chewing piglet
(Source unknown)

Chain-chewing sow
(Willem Schouten)

Bar-biting sow
(Source unknown)

Giraffe mouthing fence
(Meredith Bashaw)

Giraffes wall-licking
(Meredith Bashaw)

Tongue-playing giraffe
(Meredith Bashaw)

Tongue-rolling cow
(Don Broom)
Videos
cribbing
Crib-biting horse
(Sebastian McBride)

Crib-biting horse
(Sebastian McBride)

Head-nodding in
 frusrated horse
(Sebastian McBride)

Weaving horse
(Sebastian McBride)

Stall-walking horse
(Sebastian McBride)

Pacing zebra
(Born Free Foundation archive)


Sow chain-chewing
(Renee Bergeron)


Sow sham-chewing (Renee Bergeron)

Giraffes licking wall
(Born Free Foundation archive)
     

Carnivores

Members of the Orders Carnivora are particularly prone to locomotor ARBs like pacing. The images below are all from wild/semi-wild carnivores in zoos and on fur-farms; for domesticated dogs and cats, see the 'Pets' section below.
Photos

Tiger mid-pace
(Born Free Foundation archives)

Pacing tiger
(Born Free Foundation archives)

Pacing tiger
(Born Free Foundation archives)
Route-tracing wolves
(Born Free Foundation archives)
Circling bear
(Heinrich Hediger)

Pacing  polar bear
(Georgia Mason)
Swaying polar bear
(Born Free Foundation archives)
Pacing polar bear
(Born Free Foundation archives)

Pacing bear
(Brian Seaton)

Rocking bear
(Born Free Foundation archives)
   
Videos
jaguar
Pacing jaguar
(Sophie Vickery)
jaguar2
Pacing jaguar
(Sophie Vickery)

Leopard circling and biting tail
(Born Free Foundation archives)

Leopard pacing
(Source unknown)

Pacing panther
(Born Free Foundation archives)

Asiatic black bear biting foot
(Sophie Vickery)
brown bear
Brown bear pacing
(Sophie Vickery)

Asiatic black bear head-swaying
(Sophie Vickery)

Asiatic black bear pacing
(Sophie Vickery)
polar bear
Head-swaying polar bear
(Sophie Vickery)

polar bear
Head-swaying polar bear
(Sophie Vickery)


Polar bear pacing backwards
(Born Free Foundation archives)
polar bear
Polar bear pacing backwards and forwards
(Sophie Vickery)

Polar bear swaying
(Joe Garner)

Mink running in and out of nestbox
(María Díez Léon)

Mink head-twirling
(María Díez Léon)

Mink restlessly running
(María Díez Léon)
 

Rodents

Rodents display an array of ARBs, often at night/in the dark phase of their life cycle. Removing hair from self or cage-mates ('barbering') is probably quite different in biological cause from other forms of stereotypic behaviour (e.g. true stereotypies).
Photos

Lab. mice bar-mouthing and jumping
(Hanno Würbel)

Bar-biting rats
(Charlotte Burn)


Barbered and whisker-plucked lab. mouse
(Naomi Latham)


Barbered lab. mice
(Naomi Latham)


Very barbered mouse
(Naomi Latham)

Barbered lab. rat
(Charlotte Burn)

Barbered chinchilla
(Marina Ponzio)

Barbered African striped mouse
(Megan Jones)
       
Videos

Lab. mouse bar-mouthing
(Hanno Würbel)

Lab. mouse bar-mouthing
(Joe Garner)

Lab. mouse bar-mouthing
(Joe Garner)

Lab. mice jumping
(Hanno Würbel)

Lab. mice 'twirling'
(Joe Garner)

Lab. mice somersaulting
(Hanno Würbel)

Lab. mouse 'twirling'
(Joe Garner)


African striped mouse bar-mouthing
(Megan Jones)
+ part 2

African striped mouse 'twirling'
(Megan Jones)

African striped mouse somersaulting
(Megan Jones)

Abbreviated somersaulting in
African striped mouse
(Megan Jones)

Cage-lid climbing in young African strpied mice
(Megan Jones)
deermouseDeer mouse back-flipping
(Mark Lewis)
deermouseDeer mouse jumping
(Mark Lewis)
gerbilGerbil corner-digging
(Christel Moons)
     

Primates

Like rodents, primates display diverse ARBs from route-tracing/pacing to repetitive regurgitation. The images below are from research facilities and zoos. 
Photos

Regurgitating orang-utan
(Daniel Mills)
self-biting
Self-biting rhesus monkey
self-biting
Results of severe self-biting?
     
Videos

Regurgitating gorilla
(Born Free Foundation archives)

spider monkey
Squirrel monkey pacing and head-twirling
(Renee Bergeron)
monkey jumping
Jumping monkey
(Born Free Foundation archives)
monkey twirling
'Waltzing' monkey
(Born Free Foundation archives)
 

Pets

Some ARBs in 'companion animals' (for horses, see 'Ungulates' above) are very disturbing (e.g self-harm in parrots); others nicely illustrate how behaviours that are superficially similar can have very different causes -- e.g. the paw-licking/chewing/ in the cat and dog below were respectively compulsive, and a response the dog had learned would attract attention.
Photos

Cat paw-licking 
(Daniel Mills)

Dog paw-chewing
(Daniel Mills)

Circling dog
(Daniel Mills)

Kennelled dog jumping 
(Daniel Mills)

Dog tail-chasing (Daniel Mills)

Feather-plucking parakeets
(Jamie Gilardie)

Self-plucked cockatoo
(Danial Mills)

Macaw self-plucking
(Daniel Mills)

Results of severe self-biting in a cockatoo
(Daniel Mills)
     
Videos
dog
Dog flank-sucking (Andew Luescher)
dog
Dog 'fly-snapping'
(Andrew Luescher)
dog
Dog spinning
(Andrew Luescher)
dog
Dog 'star gazing'
(Andrew Luescher)
parrot
Parrot 'feed-rolling'
(Joe Garner)
parrot
Parrot route-tracing
(Joe Garner)
parrot
Parrot route-tracing 2
(Joe Garner)
         

other examples of ARB
 
elephant
Elephant trunk-waving 
(photo: Daniel Mills)
elephant
Elephant swinging trunk
(video: Born Free Foundation)
elephant
Elephant weaving
(video: Born Free Foundation)
elephant
Elephant pacing
(video: Born Free Foundation)
   
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