Temperament varies widely based on genetics, and training, but because of their instincts as herd animals, they may be prone to aggressive behavior, particularly toward other stallions, and thus require careful management by knowledgeable handlers. However, with proper training and management, stallions are effective equine athletes at the highest levels of many disciplines, including horse racing, horse shows, and international Olympic competition.
“Stallion” is also used to refer to males of other equips, including zebras and donkeys. Nor, in natural settings, do they fight each other to the death in competition for mares.
The mare determines the movement of the herd as it travels to obtain food, water, and shelter. When the herd is at rest, all members share the responsibility of keeping watch for danger.
The stallion is usually on the edge of the group, to defend the herd if needed. The dominant stallion in the herd will tolerate both sexes of horses while young, but once they become sexually mature, often as yearlings or two-year-olds, the stallion will drive both colts and fillies from the herd.
Colts may present competition for the stallion, but studies suggest that driving off young horses of both sexes may also be an instinctive behavior that minimizes the risk of inbreeding within the herd, as most young are the offspring of the dominant stallion in the group. In some cases, a single younger mature male may be tolerated on the fringes of the herd.
Fillies usually soon join a different band with a dominant stallion different from the one that sired them. Colts or young stallions without mares of their own usually form small, all-male, “bachelor bands” in the wild.
In either case, if the two stallions meet, there rarely is a true fight; more often there will be bluffing behavior and the weaker horse will back off. Even if a fight for dominance occurs, rarely do opponents hurt each other in the wild because the weaker combatant has a chance to flee.
Fights between stallions in captivity may result in serious injuries; fences and other forms of confinement make it more difficult for the losing animal to safely escape. In the wild, feral stallions have been known to steal or mate with domesticated mares.
Genitourinary system of a stallion stallion's secondary characteristics include heavier muscling for a given breed than is seen in mares or geldings, often with considerable development along the crest of the neck, as shown in this image. Erection and protrusion take place gradually, by the increasing tumescence of the erectile vascular tissue in the corpus cavernous penis.
When erect, the penis doubles in length and thickness and the glans increases by 3 to 4 times. The urethra opens within the urethral fossa, a small pouch at the distal end of the glans.
Even well-trained stallions require firm and consistent handling by experienced individuals. In all cases, however, stallions have an inborn tendency to attempt to dominate both other horses and human handlers, and will be affected to some degree by proximity to other horses, especially mares in heat.
They must be trained to behave with respect toward humans at all times or else their natural aggressiveness, particularly a tendency to bite, may pose a danger of serious injury. For this reason, regardless of management style, stallions must be treated as individuals and should only be handled by people who are experienced with horses and thus recognize and correct inappropriate behavior before it becomes a danger.
While some breeds are of a more gentle temperament than others, and individual stallions may be well-behaved enough to even be handled by inexperienced people for short periods of time, common sense must always be used. Even the most gentle stallion has natural instincts that may overcome human training.
As a general rule, children should not handle stallions, particularly in a breeding environment. In the “harem” model, the stallion is allowed to run loose with mares akin to that of a feral or semi-feral herd.
Sometime stallions may periodically be managed in multiple systems, depending on the season of the year. The advantage of natural types of management is that the stallion is allowed to behave “like a horse” and may exhibit fewer stable vices.
In a harem model, the mares may “cycle” or achieve estrus more readily. In some places, young domesticated stallions are allowed to live separately in a “bachelor herd” while growing up, kept out of sight, sound or smell of mares.
A Swiss study demonstrated that even mature breeding stallions kept well away from other horses could live peacefully together in a herd setting if proper precautions were taken while the initial herd hierarchy was established. On being taken off the Forest, many of them stay together in bachelor herds for most of the rest of the year.
Some stallions become very anxious or temperamental in a herd setting and may lose considerable weight, sometimes to the point of a health risk. Some may become highly protective of their mares and thus more aggressive and dangerous to handle.
There is also a greater risk that the stallion may escape from a pasture or be stolen. Stallions may break down fences between adjoining fields to fight another stallion or mate with the “wrong” herd of mares, thus putting the pedigree of ensuing foals in question.
Not all individuals are suited for this kind of arrangement, however. The other general method of managing stallions is to confine them individually, sometimes in a small pen or corral with a tall fence, other times in a stable, or, in certain places, in a small field (or paddock) with a strong fence. The advantages to individual confinement include less of a risk of injury to the stallion or to other horses, controlled periods for breeding mares, greater certainty of what mares are bred when, less risk of escape or theft, and ease of access by humans.
Some stallions are of such a temperament, or develop vicious behavior due to improper socialization or poor handling, that they must be confined and cannot be kept in a natural setting, either because they behave in a dangerous manner toward other horses, or because they are dangerous to humans when loose. The drawbacks to confinement vary with the details of the actual method used, but stallions kept out of a herd setting require a careful balance of nutrition and exercise for optimal health and fertility.
Lack of exercise can be a serious concern; stallions without sufficient exercise may not only become fat, which may reduce both health and fertility, but also may become aggressive or develop stable vices due to pent-up energy. This is sometimes addressed by keeping stallions in complete isolation from other animals.
However, complete isolation has significant drawbacks; stallions may develop additional behavior problems with aggression due to frustration and pent-up energy. As a general rule, a stallion that has been isolated from the time of weaning or sexual maturity will have a more difficult time adapting to a herd environment than one allowed to live close to other animals.
However, as horses are instinctively social creatures, even stallions are believed to benefit from being allowed social interaction with other horses, though proper management and cautions are needed. Some managers attempt to compromise between the two methods by providing stallions daily turnout by themselves in a field where they can see, smell, and hear other horses.
Properly trained stallions can live and work close to mares and to one another. Examples include the Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, where the entire group of stallions live part-time in a bachelor herd as young colts, then are stabled, train, perform, and travel worldwide as adults with few if any management problems.
However, even stallions who are unfamiliar with each other can work safely in reasonable proximity if properly trained; the vast majority of Thoroughbred horses on the racetrack are stallions, as are many equine athletes in other forms of competition. Stallions are often shown together in the same ring at horse shows, particularly in halter classes where their conformation is evaluated.
In horse show performance competition, stallions and mares often compete in the same arena with one another, particularly in Western and English “pleasure”-type classes where horses are worked as a group. Overall, stallions can be trained to keep focused on work and may be brilliant performers if properly handled.
A breeding stallion is more apt to present challenging behavior to a human handler than one who has not bred mares, and stallions may be more difficult to handle in spring and summer, during the breeding season, than during the fall and winter. However, some stallions are used for both equestrian uses and for breeding at the same general time of year.
Though compromises may need to be made in expectations for both athletic performance and fertility rate, well-trained stallions with good temperaments can be taught that breeding behavior is only allowed in a certain area, or with certain cues, equipment, or with a particular handler. When permitted by a breed registry, use of artificial insemination is another technique that may reduce behavior problems in stallions.
In some parts of the world, the practice of gelding is not widespread and stallions are common. In other places, most males are gelded and only a few stallions are kept as breeding stock.
Horse breeders who produce purebred bloodstock often recommend that no more than the top 10 percent of all males be allowed to reproduce, to continually improve a given breed of horse. People sometimes have inaccurate beliefs about stallions, both positive and negative.
In some cases, fed by movies and fictional depictions of horses in literature, some people believe a stallion can bond to a single human individual to the exclusion of all others. Misbehaving stallions may look pretty or be exhibiting instinctive behavior, but it can still become dangerous if not corrected.
Some stallions do behave better for some people than others, but that can be true of some mares and geldings, as well. In some parts of Asia and the Middle East, the riding of stallions is widespread, especially among male riders.
The gelding of stallions is unusual, viewed culturally as either unnecessary or unnatural. In areas where gelding is not widely practiced, stallions are still not needed in numbers as great as mares, and so many will be culled, either sold for horse meat or simply sold to traders who will take them outside the area.
In Europe, Australia, and the Americas, keeping stallions is less common, primarily confined to purebred animals that are usually trained and placed into competition to test their quality as future breeding stock. The majority of stallions are gelded at an early age and then trained for use as everyday working or riding animals.
If a stallion is not to be used for breeding, gelding the male horse will allow it to live full-time in a herd with both males and females, reduce aggressive or disruptive behavior, and allow the horse to be around other animals without being seriously distracted. If a horse is not to be used for breeding, it can be gelded prior to reaching sexual maturity.
However, they are more likely to continue stallion-like behaviors than horses gelded at a younger age, especially if they have been used as a breeding stallion. Modern surgical techniques allow castration to be performed on a horse of almost any age with relatively few risks.
In most cases, particularly in modern industrialized cultures, a male horse that is not of sufficient quality to be used for breeding will have a happier life without having to deal with the instinctive, hormone-driven behaviors that come with being left intact. Geldings are safer to handle and present fewer management problems.
Many boarding stables will refuse clients with stallions or charge considerably more money to keep them. Some types of equestrian activity, such as events involving children, or clubs that sponsor purely recreational events such as trail riding, may not permit stallions to participate.
A Ringling or “rig” is a crypt orchid, a stallion which has one or both testicles descended. If both testicles are not descended, the horse may appear to be a gelding, but will still behave like a stallion.
In many cases, Ringling are infertile, or have fertility levels that are significantly reduced. A more complex and costly surgical procedure can sometimes correct the condition and restore the animal's fertility, though it is only cost-effective for a horse that has very high potential as a breeding stallion.
Keeping crypt orchids or surgically-created monarchies as breeding stallions is controversial, as the condition is at least partially genetic and some handlers claim that crypt orchids tend to have greater levels of behavioral problems than normal stallions. ^ a b “The Stallion: Breeding Soundness Examination & Reproductive Anatomy”.
Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners: New Revised Edition of the Standard Work for More Than 100 Years. MacKinnon Angus O.; Squires, Edward L.; Valley, Wendy E.; Warner, Dickson D. (2011).