Disguising a horse as a zebra against flies: 'Makes it quieter'

Disguising a horse as a zebra against flies: 'Makes it quieter'

Nadine Schillingerhut, a horse breeder, has been drawing fly-stripes on her horse, Brian, for years. “When the horses go out to pasture in the summer, we always color them. We've been doing this for a long time,” explains Schillingerhut. She does this using a type of pen specially designed for animals. Vertical stripes in a zebra pattern are then applied to the horse's coat. “Then they leave the flies alone more. You see that the horses become calmer. They wag their heads and tails less to chase the flies away,” explains Schillingerhut.

There are also many fly rugs with a zebra pattern for horses. “My horse is of difficult proportions, so we came up with these marks.”

Previous research on stripes on fur has shown that this works against flies, explains ecologist Jack Van Alphen. “Scientists have been able to prove that if you draw white stripes on black fur, the animal is less likely to be attacked by horse flies. Horse flies fly towards large solid objects, and the stripes interrupt the solid image, causing the fly to fly over them.”

In Japan, cows are now also provided White lines. Should we do that here too? There are many colorful cows in the Netherlands, cows with spots. They are a little luckier than other cow species. “The colored cow has many small spots, which can also help to overcome fur interruptions,” explains ecologist Van Alphen.

Cows and horses, which are often bitten by horse flies, can also be at risk. “They can transmit sleeping sickness, which makes animals pay less attention to their environment,” says ecologist Van Alphen. “They can also transmit parasites.” Therefore, drawing lines on the coat could be a solution.

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