cod. 1005334

Academic year 2023/24
2° year of course - First semester
- Paola Maria VALSECCHI
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 strong 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 the tools for understanding and managing the behavior of animals living in dependence on humans, whether domestic or wild. The course is divided into three parts. Part One: After a brief survey of the human-animal relationship and domestication in general, lectures are aimed at understanding the ethological needs of animals living on farms, in zoos or used by humans for service or sport activities. Key concepts of classical ethology, such as motivation, are re-presented in applied terms for animal welfare assessment. This part is complemented by some lectures on stress and the use of behavior as an indicator of distress, and closes with a presentation of legislative elements concerning animal welfare in the various contexts in which they are used by humans: transport, slaughter, breeding, circuses, zoos, etc.
Part two: focused on knowledge of domestic animal behavior. Species by species, the path of domestication and the morphological and behavioral changes resulting from this will be explored. The species examined in the course are: dog and cat for companion animals; dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, laying hens, and fattening chickens for food-supplying animals for human use. In the course, welfare issues are explained for each species and type of livestock.
The third part of the course focuses on the role that the study of animal behavior has in vertebrate wildlife management and conservation. After presenting the history and mission of zoos, some case studies of breeding and reintroduction to the wild will be examined, highlighting the ethological approach.

Full programme

1. Overview of the course. What is Applied Ethology: areas of application of ethological knowledge and methods of investigation. (knowledge and understanding)
Part 1: applied ethology fundamental topics
2. The origins of the Human animal relationships. Cultural and religious influence on the HAR (knowledge and understanding); The Neolitic Revolution: towards animal farming. When and where domestication starts; first animal species domesticated (knowledge and understanding)
3-4. Domestication and taming: definition and differences; domestic, feral and wild animals. Artificial and natural selection in the domestication process. Pre-adaptation characteristics for domestication (knowledge and understanding). Investigating the domestication process: the silver fox experiment; effects of domestication on morphology and behaviour (applying knowledge and understanding)
5-6. Animal motivation: Lorenz and his psychoenergetic model: omeostatic models of motivation; the Hughes and Duncan model (knowledge and understanding). How to analyze motivation: the dust-bathing example; Motivation and animal welfare (applying knowledge and understanding).
7. Student seminar on animal motivation (making judgements); (communication skills)
8-9. Animal needs: elastic and inelastic needs (knowledge and understanding). Behavioral needs and the use of preference test (applying knowledge and understanding)
10. Student seminar on behavioral needs of farm animals (making judgements) (communication skills)
11-13. Stress syndrome: acute and chronic stress (applying knowledge and understanding). Physiological and behavioral parameters of stress responses; the example of distress vocalization in piglets (applying knowledge and understanding). Behavioral consequences of chronic stress: the nest building in sows and stereotypic behavior (applying knowledge and understanding). Abnormal behaviors: stereotypies, redirected behaviors (knowledge and understanding)
14. Student seminar on evaluation of chronic stress in farm animals (making judgements); (communication skills)
15-17. Animal welfare: from Ruth Harrison book to the FIVE Freedom; three approaches to the study of AW (knowledge and understanding). Measuring AW: from the resource-based to the animal-based approach (knowledge and understanding). 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). 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).
18. Student seminar of AW of intensive farming (making judgements) (communication skills)
19. European legislation on AW (knowledge and understanding). Directive 93/119 on animal slaughter. Ethical problem of ritual slaughter in Europe (knowledge and understanding) (making judgements).

Part 2: domestic animal
20. The dog: domestication and behavior (knowledge and understanding). Dog welfare: service and military dogs, laboratory dogs, stray dogs. (knowledge and understanding)
21. The Cat: domestication and behavior (applying knowledge and understanding). Cat welfare: stray cats, laboratory cats and pet (knowledge and understanding)
22. Cattle: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding). Pigs: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)
23. Sheep: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding). Goats: domestication, behaviour and welfare issues (knowledge and understanding)

Part 3: Zoo and the role of applied ethology for vertebrate convervation
24. The ZOO: history, mission and AW (knowledge and understanding)
25. Environmental enrichment for captive animals (knowledge and understanding)
26-27. Conservation and reintroduction of wild species: the role of the ethology (knowledge and understanding)
28-30 On site evaluation of AW in intensive/extensive farming system (applying knowledge and understanding); visit to a dog shelter (making judgements). Visit to zoological park Parco Natura viva


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
Paola Valsecchi – Non dire gatto – 2022 Ed 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

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

Clutton Brock “Storia naturale della domesticazione dei mammiferi” Bollati Boringhieri 2001
Students can find the pdf slides showed in class on the Elly platform. The slides should be used EXCLUSIVELY to keep track of the topics covered in class and DO NOT REPLACE textbooks.

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/extensive farming, dog shelter and at the zoological park Natura Viva.
Students will be divided into groups of 3-4, and they will be given topics to study in depth through critical analysis of a publication and explain with class discussion.

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.