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Main focus

Social behaviour is a key determinant of animal welfare, as it organises many of the affective processes that domestic animals employ in their daily lives. We study the benefits of social behaviour, as factors that promote mental and physical health and well-being.

Topics include positive social interactions, social relationships, prosocial behaviour, social support and socio-behavioural development in young animals. Our team uses a multi-disciplinary approach combining animal behaviour, physiology and neuroscience. The aim is to identify improvements in animal management that take advantage of the benefits of social behaviour in practice.

Research Projects 

Indicators and welfare implications of social bonds in pigs

Cooperation in pigs 

Neuroimaging positive welfare states in pigs: Effects of environmental and social enrichment

Social ontogeny of dam-reared vs. artificially-reared goat kids and its welfare implications

Quantifying positive social behaviour in pigs through machine learning technology


Portele, K, Scheck, K, Siegmann, S, Feitsch, R, Maschat, K, Rault, JL, Camerlink, I. 2019. Sow-Piglet Nose Contacts in Free-Farrowing Pens. Animals, 9(8): 513.

Rault, J-L. 2019. Be kind to others: Prosocial behaviours and their implications for animal welfare. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 210: 113-123.

Rewritable fidelity: How repeated pairings and age influence subsequent pair-bond formation in male prairie voles. Horm Behav 113: 47-54

Rault, J.-L., van den Munkkhof, M. , Buiman-Pijlman, F. 2017. Oxytocin as an indicator of psychological and social well-being in domesticated species: A critical review. Frontiers in Psychology, 8: 1521.

Yee, J. R., Kenkel, W. M., Frijling, J. L., Dodhia, S., Onishi, K. G., Tovar, S., Saber, M.J., Lewis, G.F., Liu, W.S., Porges, S.W., Carter, C. S. 2016. Oxytocin promotes functional coupling between paraventricular nucleus and both sympathetic and parasympathetic cardioregulatory nuclei. Hormones and Behavior, 80, 82-91.

Rault, J.-L. 2016. Effects of positive and negative human contacts and intranasal oxytocin on cerebrospinal fluid oxytocin. Psychoneuroendocrinology 69: 60-66.

Yee, J.R. Kenkel, W.M., Kulkarni, P., Moore, K., Perkeybile, A.M., Toddes, S., Amacker, J.A., Carter, C.S., Ferris, C.F. 2016. BOLD fMRI in awake prairie voles: A platform for translational social and affective neuroscience. NeuroImage, 138: 221-232.