How does the expressiveness of leaders affect followership in domestic horses (Equus ferus caballus)?

Caroline Gérard, Mathilde Valenchon, Nicolas Poulin, Odile Petit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


In collective movements, some individuals are more effective and attractive leaders than others. Parameters such as social network, personality, and physiologic needs failed to explain why group members follow one leader more than another. In this study in the domestic horse, we propose to focus on the leader’s attitude and its impact to the followers’ recruitment during two conditions: spontaneous group departures or experimentally induced departures. We postulate that the expressiveness of the leader could enhance its attractiveness and thus produce a successful followership. We found that a high expressiveness level is associated with a high curiosity score and with a low social status. This propensity to initiate while being expressive was higher in the experimental condition than in the spontaneous condition which was expected, since the experimental procedure sought to increase the motivation of initiators with a highly appetent reward. Moreover, the more intense the leader’s expressiveness is, the faster the followers will join the movement regardless of the condition. This positive and dynamic attitude can be perceived as an attractive feature by the followers. Finally, we evidenced collective arousal in followers initiated by the leader that could be essential for group cohesion. The present study is the first to investigate the expressiveness level in animals, and provides new insights into the emergence of leadership.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Acceptance date is provisional and based on date of publication.


  • Collective movement
  • Consensus decisions
  • Contagion mood
  • Leadership
  • Personality
  • Social status


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