This Dartmoor stallion is so proud of his son. He gently nibbles and plays with his gestures representing peace, security and fatherly love.
Imprinted from when he was a foal, the stallion would have felt this same nurturing love from his mother. For about the first half hour of his life, he would have been licked, with this soon replaced by delicate biting movements that help to keep the coat in good condition.
After a few days, he would have indulged in reciprocal nibbling with his mother and he may have enjoyed mutual grooming sessions with another foal.
Having established mutual grooming as a foal, horses continue to use this throughout their adult lives.
However, domestication of horses means stallions are rarely if ever seen running with their offspring, and it is only when they are allowed to run in herds that their true behaviour can be observed.
Indeed, research carried out by a three-member team of scientists from the University of South Bohemia and the Czech University of Life Sciences on the fatherly behaviour of stallions has shown that it is the stallion who is the parent dedicating himself significantly more to the foals than their mothers.
They studied the reserve of wild horses and other big ungulates of the European Serengeti in the Central Bohemian town of Milovice and found that the mares mainly bring the foals into line, but they do not play with their offspring.
On the contrary, the stallion not only tolerates the play of the foals, he even joins it actively and the mock fighting with colts may sometimes make a very wild impression. It is more likely that the foals will tease their mother, but as far as their father is concerned, they literally adore him and eagerly take in his every gesture and motion.
Domesticated stallions are kept separate from mares with foals, which is why moments depicted in these photographs are so precious, and proof that stallions do offer peace, security and love if allowed.