cod. 1005334

Academic year 2021/22
2° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Zoologia (BIO/05)
Discipline del settore biodiversità e ambiente
Type of training activity
60 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

1. knowledge and understanding. Students must achieve a good understanding of the specific ethological approach to management and welfare of animals that live in close contact with humans in families, farms, zoos and laboratories.
2. ability to apply knowledge and understanding. Students must be able to apply a scientific observational method to the analysis of the behavior of domestic animals and/or wild living in captivity and to integrate the various levels of causal and functional analysis of the behavior and well-being.
3. independence of opinion. Students must develop critical capacity and autonomy of judgement with respect to the description and interpretation of behavioral data used as indicators of stress and/or wellness.
4. communication skills. Students must be able to communicate the results of animal behavior analysis both as regards animal welfare concerning the issues of human-animal relationship..
5. learning ability. Students must be able to learn the meaning, the techniques and methods of Ethological approach to the study of human-animal relationship and to protect the welfare of animals that live in close proximity with humans and dependence in terms of economic exploitation.


students should have a stong background in Ethology, whereby they must have at least already attended the course and possibly having passed the exam.

Course unit content

The course aims to provide tools for understanding and managing the behavior of animals that live in dependence on humans, be they domestic or wild. In particular, after a brief excursus on the human-animal relationship and domestication process, the lessons are aimed at understanding the ethological needs of the animals living in zoos, farms, laboratory and families. Key concepts of classical ethology as motivation, are discussed in terms of application for the assessment of animal welfare. The course is also integrated by some lessons on stress and the use of the behavior as an indicator of distress. In addition, the course provides legislative items that relate to animal welfare in the various contexts in which animals are used by humans: transport, slaughter, breeding, circuses, zoos, etc. The second part of the course is focused on knowledge of the behavior of pets. Species by species will be delved into the path of domestication and morphological and behavioral changes resulting from this. The species examined in the course are: dogs and cats for companion animals; dairy, beef cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, laying hens and broilers as productive animals that provide food for human use. Specie-specific behaviours and welfare issues will be illustrated for each species.

Full programme

1. Overview of the course. A brief questionnaire to assess student’s familiarity with domestic animals.
2. What is Applied Ethology (knowledge and understanding)
3. The origins of the Human animal relationships. Cultural and religious influence on the HAR(knowledge and understanding); (making judgements)
4. The Neolitic Revolution: towards animal farming. When and where domestication starts; first animal species domesticated (knowledge and understanding)
5. Domestication and taming: definition and differences; domestic, feral and wild animals (knowledge and understanding)
6. Artificial and natural selection in the domestication process. Pre-adaptation characteristics for domestication (knowledge and understanding)
7. Investigating the domestication process: the silver fox experiment; effects of domestication on morphology and behaviour (applying knowledge and understanding)
8. Animal motivation: Loren and his psychoenergetic model: omeostatic models of motivation; the Hughes and Duncan model (knowledge and understanding)
9. How to analyse motivation: the dust-bathing example; Motivation and animal welfare (applying knowledge and understanding)
10. Student seminar on animal motivation (making judgements); (communication skills)
11. Animal needs: elastic and inelastic needs (knowledge and understanding)
12. Behavioral needs and the use of preference test (applying knowledge and understanding)
13. Student seminar on behavioral needs of farm animals (making judgements) (communication skills)
14. Stress syndrome: acute and chronic stress (applying knowledge and understanding)
15. Physiological and behavioral parameters of stress responses; the example of distress vocalization in piglets (applying knowledge and understanding)
16. Behavioral consequences of chronic stress: the nest building in sows and stereotypic behavior (applying knowledge and understanding)
17. Abnormal behaviors: stereotypies, redirected behaviors (knowledge and understanding)
18. Student seminar on evaluation of chronic stress in farm animals (making judgements); (communication skills)
19. Animal welfare: from Ruth Harrison book to the FIVE Freedom; three approaches to the study of AW (knowledge and understanding)
20. Measuring AW: from the resource-based to the animal-based approach (knowledge and understanding)
21. FIVE Freedom, FOUR Principles and TWELVE Critiria: the evolution of AW in the WELFARE QUALITY e AWIN projects of the European Community (applying knowledge and understanding); (making judgements).
22. AW, genetic selection and Genetic Engineering : the case of laying hens and broiler chickens. The new concept of Genetic maltreatment.
(knowledge and understanding) (making judgements).
23. Student seminar of AW of intensive farming (making judgements) (communication skills)
24. European legislation on AW (knowledge and understanding)
25. Directive 93/119 on animal slaughter. Ethical problem of ritual slaughter in Europe (knowledge and understanding) (making judgements).
26. The ZOO: history, mission and AW (knowledge and understanding)
27. Conservation and reintroduction of wild species: the role of the ethology (knowledge and understanding)
28. Environmental enrichment for captive animals (knowledge and understanding)
29. Student seminar on EE for laboratory animals (making judgements); (communication skills)
30. Introduction to Animal Ethics (knowledge and understanding)
31. The issue of Animal Rights (knowledge and understanding) (making judgements).
32. Welfare of animals in the AAT and ATT (applying knowledge and understanding)
33. The dog: domestication and behavior (knowledge and understanding)
34. Dog welfare: service and military dogs, laboratory dogs, stray dogs. (knowledge and understanding)
35. The Cat: domestication and behavior (applying knowledge and understanding)
36. Cat welfare: stray cats, laboratory cats and pet (knowledge and understanding)
37. Cattle: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
38. Pigs: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
39. Sheep: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
40. Goats: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
41. Laboratory rodents and other species: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
42-47 On site evaluation of AW in intensive farming system (applying knowledge and understanding); (making judgements)


Etologia Applicata e Benessere Animale. Vol 1 e 2. Point Veterinarie Italie 2008
Paola Valsecchi – Attenti ai cani – 2020 Edizioni il Mulino
Guazzaloca G. Umani e animali – 2021 Edizioni il Mulino

Per Jensen: “Etologia degli animali domestici” McGraw-Hill 2011

Webster “ Il benessere animale” Edagricole 1999

altre letture:

Houpt “Il comportamento degli animali domestici” EMSI 2000

Webster “Animal welfare, limping towards Eden” 2005 Blackwell Publishing

Appleby & Hughes “Animal Welfare” CABI Publishing 1999

Serpell “In the company of animals” Blackwell 1986

Fraser & Broom “ Farm animal behaviour and welfare” CABI Publishing

Clutton Brock “Storia naturale della domesticazione dei mammiferi” Bollati Boringhieri 2001

teacher's powerpoint presentations available on web site

Teaching methods

The lectures take place in the first part illustrating general concepts (motivation, stress, welfare) that are detailed in the second part with examples of research applications (breeding, zoo, laboratory). To stimulate the development of critical abilities of the student and promote discussion each topic discussed in class is taken over by a scientific paper that is examined and discussed with an emphasis on the methodologies used in the study, the conclusions drawn from the results. The lectures are held with the help of PowerPoint presentations that are made available to students on the site. At the end of the course is carried out a visit to intensive farming and whenever possible extensive breeding farms.

In case of prolonged health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the teaching include could lessons in mixed modality (frontal lessons for students in presence and simultaneously in live streaming on the electronic platform of the university). The recording of the lessons will be available on Elly for the three days following the lesson.

Assessment methods and criteria

At the end of the course each student is given a paper on one of the topics covered. Starting from this paper the student must prepare a 15-minute seminar that will exhibit the day of the exam, organized as follows: illustration of the topic referring to the existing literature, materials, and methods used, evaluation of the results obtained, any critical points, questions still open. Particular attention is paid to the student's critical ability, his understanding of the issues dealt with and the capacity argument. The seminar evaluation corresponds to 50% of the final vote. At the end of the presentation of the seminar some specific questions on other topics of the course will complete the verification. Proper use of an appropriate scientific language is considered an essential condition for the success of the exam. For students with DSA certified according to Law 170/2010, there are appropriate support methods.

Other information

Information on the content of the course (see below) are associated with the relative "Dublin Descriptors" (DD) that characterize their purposes.
Dublin Descriptors:
- Knowledge and understanding;
- Applying knowledge and understanding;
- Making judgements;
- Communication skills;
- Learning skills.