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Understanding animal behavior: Niko Tinbergen’s Four Questions

By July 1, 2016May 26th, 2021Archives

Ever wonder why roosters crow at dawn, pigs root in the dirt, or goats butt heads? Animal scientists had similar inquisitiveness at the beginning of the 20th century. Luckily, Dutch ethologist Niko Tinbergen helped researchers tackle these curiosities by posing 4 questions we should always consider when looking at a behavior:

Tinbergen’s work earned him the Nobel Prize in 1973 and continues to be a key asset in current animal behavior research. Most notably, he has helped us understand why our domesticated species continue to perform behaviors displayed by their ancestors in the wild. For example, if we use this framework when considering a rooster’s early morning crow, we can begin to piece together how the behavior works and why it is important:

Here at G.A.P., we use these questions to understand why behaviors are important to animals and develop our welfare standard accordingly. In this way, we strive to ensure that our G.A.P. 5-Step rated animals are provided with environments allowing them to express ancestral behaviors that they are motivated to perform.