Cows can be pessimistic and it affects their ability to cope with stress: UBC study
UBC PhD student says few studies have focused on pessimism and optimism in other species
New research from the University of British Columbia suggests dairy cows show personality traits like pessimism and optimism from a young age and their inherent outlook can predict their ability to cope with stress.
Benjamin Lecorps, a PhD student in the animal welfare program, says the study has implications for animal welfare and suggests some commonalities between the human and animal worlds.
Lecorps's study, published last month in Scientific Reports, tested how calves that had previously been identified as fearful, sociable, pessimistic or optimistic reacted under stressful situations like being transported from one barn to another.
He says the more pessimistic calves were more vocal and had higher eye temperatures, which are signs of stress.
Lecorps says while optimism has been studied as a major predictor of how well humans cope with stressors — with implications for their social lives and mental health — few studies have focused on pessimism and optimism in other species.
He says personality traits have often been studied as an average across a species or herd, but it's important to look at individuals when considering animal welfare, because some calves will be more vulnerable to challenges than others.