From 'scaredy cats' to 'moody cows', we often give animals personality when we talk about them, but does this have any basis in scientific fact? How can we tell if a cat is feeling fear, and how does a grumpy cow behave? What would make an animal an individual? And what makes them unique?
Only recently has science confirmed that animals have distinct individual personalities, shown through behavioural research. Animal Personality: The Science Behind Individual Variation introduces the fundamentals of personality science and research, describing the history of behavioural testing, and then drills into scientific measurement, recording and statistical analysis of individual personalities in animals. The author shows how the implications of animals having personalities affects how we treat and care for pets, farm animals and wildlife.
Interesting questions are posed, such as what is the evolutionary reason for traits like fearfulness, aggression and sociability? Have we anthropomorphised animals' needs for social interactions? What are the neurological and genetic bases of personality? How has personality affected the domestication of wild species? And it questions long held beliefs about animal traits such as dominance theory.
Animal Personality: The Science Behind Individual Variation provides a fascinating and informed insight into the science of personality and its application to non-human animals. Ethologists and animal owners will find this an illuminating and thought-provoking resource.
Dr Jill R.D. MacKay is a researcher and lecturer at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She is extremely passionate about science communication and has been heavily involved with the Jeanne Marchig Centre for International Animal Welfare Education's outreach practices, including the Animal Behaviour and Welfare Massive Open Online Course. She coordinates and teaches on a range of animal welfare courses at the University of Edinburgh, from postgraduate to further education levels.