Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Honors Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Elizabeth V. Berkeley

First Committee Member

Dan Beetem

Second Committee Member

Erica Van Dop


Aggression, Dominance, Exhibit Size, Ungulates, Hoofstock, Captive Management

Subject Categories



Sable antelope (Hippotragus niger)exhibit sexual dimorphism, where males and females look different from each other in color and size. Within this difference between the sexes, there are a wide spectrum in coat colors among females, ranging from light tan to dark brown. The variations seen in female coat color in other species are known to be hormonally caused by testosterone. Testosterone levels are also related to dominance within the herd in other species. The first objective of this study is to determine if the variations in coat color are associated with the dominance hierarchy among female sable at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. The second objective is to determine if dominance-associated behaviors increase due to seasonal changes in housing. The third objective is to see if the increase in dominance behaviors are maintained throughout housing in smaller winter pastures. Darker color animals performed more dominance behaviors compared to lighter color animals; although ANOVA analysis showed no significant difference (p=0.115). Dominance behaviors increased as animals were moved from summer to winter housing. The dominance behaviors seen were not significantly maintained during the transition from summer pastures to winter housing (p= 0.367), although this could be due to individuals that died during the study. This study could be used as the starting point of other studies to look at the causes of the trends shown and determine if female sable coat color is correlated to testosterone concentrations.