Defensive reactions of “wild‐type” and “Domesticated” wild rats to approach and contact by a threat stimulus

D. Caroline Blanchard, Nina K. Popova, Irina Z. Plyusnina, Irina L. Velichko, Desiree Campbell, Robert J. Blanchard, Julia Nikulina, Ella M. Nikulina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Selective breeding of wild rats over many generations on the basis of low or high defensive threat and attack to human approach and contact has produced highly polarized “domesticated” and “wild‐type” animals. Because the selection procedure selectively involves these two defense patterns, and these clearly differ in the two groups, it is of interest to determine if other, nonselected, defensive behaviors to threat stimuli also change. “Domesticated” and “wild‐type” rats of the thirty‐fifth generation were run in a fear defense test battery (F/DTB) to systematically evaluate defensive behaviors to a variety of present threat stimuli. “Domesticated” rats showed reduced avoidance and slower flight speed to an approaching experimenter, reduced jump/startle response to handelap and dorsal contact, less vocalization and boxing to vibrissae stimulation or to an anesthetized conspecific, and reduced defensiveness to an attempted pickup by the experimenter. These results indicate that selective bi‐directional breeding for defensive threat and attack to human approach and contact produces group differences in a variety of defensive behaviors, and in defensiveness to stimuli other than those on which the selection was based. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-397
Number of pages11
JournalAggressive behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes



  • defense
  • defensive attack
  • defensive behavior
  • defensive threat
  • domestication
  • fear defense test battery
  • freezing
  • genetic selection
  • rats
  • wild‐type rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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