Extensive studies have been conducted on the rumination behavior of domestic herbivores. However, studies on wild animals are limited, particularly wild animals with specific ruminating parameters. In this study, Père David's deer, a previously extirpated species, was observed to analyze the effects of sex-age, feeding habitat, and rainfall on rumination behavior in the Dafeng Nature Reserve, China. Rumination behavior was investigated based on four parameters: proportion of bedding time spent chewing, bolus processing time (s/bolus), chewing frequency (chews/bolus), and chewing rate (chews/s). Results showed that all three factors affect rumination behavior. The extent of their effects varied based on the four rumination parameters. Chewing rate and frequency decreased based on sex-age levels, i.e., from fawns to juvenile female, juvenile male, adult female, stag, and harem holder. Therefore, body size played a major role in shaping rumination behavior. Deer found in grasslands could chew faster compared with deer found in woodlands. This result might be caused by the effects of dietary composition and sunlight intensity. A deer spends a longer time ruminating while bedding during rainy days compared with rainless days to maximize energy and nutrition intake and compensate for the loss of feeding time during rainy days. Therefore, rumination behavior is plastic and is shaped by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. © 2013 Zhongqiu Li.
Li, Z. (2013). Sex-Age Related Rumination Behavior of Père David’s Deer under Constraints of Feeding Habitat and Rainfall. PLoS ONE, 8(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0066261