Play behaviors are usually the most controversial and most difficult behaviors to categorise. At Wolf Park, we define play as having the following characteristics:
- Behaviors may be performed out of sequence and/or at different intensities than when the behavior is performed with serious intent eg. in a mock hunt the “prey” may be mock killed first and then chased.
- “Play” partners may switch roles with a dominant animal acting as a subordinate and visa versa.
- “Play” may incorporate certain exaggerated motions and expressions eg. the characteristic “play face” (lips horizontally retracted, jaws slightly open, ears pulled straight up and back or folded flat)
Wotan (left) displaying a “play face”
There are 3 defined categories of play behavior: Agonistic, Social and Solitary.
I’ve got one of the authors of the ethogram looking over my entries and hopefully will have the first one up tomorrow!