Article| Volume 80, ISSUE 8, P1613-1621, August 1997

Visual Discrimination in Adult Dairy Bulls

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      Adult Holstein-Friesian dairy bulls were trained to recognize a black disk and then to discriminate between that disk and smaller ones. The bulls learned these tasks, but much more slowly than did dairy calves. Achievement of a consistently high percentage of correct choices varied among bulls because of daily variation in the disposition of the bull, which seemed to affect willingness to concentrate on the experimental task. Nevertheless, all bulls demonstrated learning, and each bull remembered very well what he once had learned. A 36-cm disk was easily detected and discriminated from smaller disks. However, bulls were not able to discriminate between two disks that differed in area by less than a factor of 4. The ability to use visual cues, such as shapes and size of shapes, suggested that the visual system is important in the biology of bulls. The slow learning rate and the variability in the percentages of correct responses were not considered to be an indication of cognitive disabilities in general but rather a reflection of the daily disposition of the bull, which affected his willingness to cooperate.

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