Period in the sexual cycle of female mammals, except the higher primates, during which they are in heat (ready to accept a male for mating). Some animals (e.g., dogs) have only one heat during a breeding season; others (e.g., ground squirrels) will come into heat repeatedly during the breeding season until impregnated. During estrus the female secretes pheromones that signal her receptivity to the males; her genital area may become swollen, and she may also give behavioral signals.

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