The Anthropomorphic Application of Gender Stereotypes to Horses
Gender stereotypes shape human social interaction, often to the detriment of women and those who do not comply with normative expectations of gender. So far, little research has assessed the extent to which people apply gender stereotypes to animals, and the implications this may have for individuals and groups, particularly female animals. The current study investigated survey respondents' preference for horses to perform in different sport and leisure practices, based solely on ideas about the sex of the animal. An anonymous online survey explored the preferences of riders for mares, geldings, and stallions for dressage, show-jumping, and trail-riding, and reasons for their choice. A total of 1,032 responses were received. Geldings were the preferred choice, being perceived as safe and reliable, followed by stallions who were valued for their supposed power, presence, and good looks. Overall, mares were the least popular choice, and were discussed in ambivalent terms reflecting broad gender stereotypes which depict females as moody, flighty, and unpredictable. Respondents appeared to draw on gender stereotypes to make judgements about horses and justify their choices. The anthropomorphic application of gender stereotypes to animals may have negative consequences for female animals, shaping human -animal interactions and expectations.