The Welfare of Traveller and Gypsy Owned Horses in the UK and Ireland

MR Rowland*, Neil Hudson, M Connor, CM Dwyer, TM Coombs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
117 Downloads (Pure)


Travellers and Gypsies are recognised ethnic groups in the UK and Ireland. Horse ownership is an important cultural tradition, however, practices associated with poor welfare are often perceived to be linked to these horse owning communities. Despite this, empirical studies on the welfare status of Traveller and Gypsy owned horses are lacking. To determine the welfare status of Traveller and Gypsy owned horses, 104 horses were assessed using a bespoke horse welfare protocol. This protocol assessed animal, resource and management-based measures. In addition, Qualitative Behaviour Assessment (QBA) identified horses’ emotional state. Results indicated that 81% of horses had an optimal body condition score, with no horse recorded as very thin/fat. The absence of limb conditions (95%), ocular (98%) and nasal (93%) discharges were evident in most horses, and 81% of horses responded positively to the voluntary animal approach test. The most commonly observed welfare issues were hoof neglect (27%), with hoof cracks/breakages (19%) being the most prevalent. QBA indicated that positive emotional states were more commonplace than negative. A relationship between QBA and other horse welfare measures was observed, e.g., improved mood was associated with better water availability. This research provides novel data in the under-researched area of the welfare of Traveller and Gypsy owned horses and counters perceptions of a poor welfare state in this group of horses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2402
Issue number18
Early online date13 Sept 2022
Publication statusFirst published - 13 Sept 2022


  • equine
  • travellers
  • gypsies
  • welfare assessment
  • emotional state
  • qualitative behavioural assessment
  • qualitative behaviour assessment


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