) is a gait
, particularly gazelles
(e.g. Thomson's Gazelles
), involving jumping
high into the air. This may occur during pursuit by a predator
. It might also occur during play
. This reduces the lead distance and speed of the pursued animal, and thus makes it easier for the predator to catch. This apparently maladaptive behavior may signal
to the predator or potential mates its comparative fitness as a form of boasting or taunting, and so therefore may be an evolutionarily
selected behavior or antipredator adaptation
. Richard Dawkins
, in his book The Selfish Gene
, refers to stotting and explains it as the animal's attempt at advertising its health. Since mammalian predators tend to hunt old or unhealthy animals, stotting informs the predator that the animal is actually very healthy and strong and the predator might do well to try to hunt the other animals in the herd. Previously, some other theorists considered this behavior as an act of altruism, thinking the animal tried to draw the predator's attention to itself and away from the herd. Evidence supports the hypothesis of advertising unprofitability - for example cheetahs abandon more hunts when the gazelle stots, and in the event they do give chase, they are far less likely to make a kill. This is offered by adherents of the handicap principle
as a prime example.
Stot is a common word in Scots
, meaning to bounce (or to walk with a bounce). Uses in this case include stotting a ball off a wall or rain stotting off a pavement. Pronking comes from the Afrikaans
word "pronk", to show off, strut
This behavior is also exhibited by felines
, from the large cats to the domestic variety, who can suddenly spring high into to air —even from a standstill and often in a backward direction— when startled by something in close proximity. This is obviously a defense mechanism, a classic example being a sudden confrontation with a threatening serpent underfoot. Kittens seem to learn about prospective threats by approaching any unfamiliar object with extreme caution and in constant preparation to stot if the object exhibits any sudden movement.
When startled, horses can stot in the manner of cats. However, horses also stot in apparent pleasure or as a way to release excess energy. This is seen often in polo ponies
as they leave the playing field, in trained rodeo
horses before and after timed speed events, as well as in horses who are loose in a field, particularly young horses.
In other animals
Both mule deer
stot, as do several other species native to North America
, but among these the mule deer's stotting gait is distinctive for its exceptionally "stiff-legged" quality.
In domesticated livestock such as sheep, stotting is typically performed only by young animals.
- FitzGibbon, C. D., and Fanshawe, J. H., (1988), Stotting in Thomson's gazelles: an honest signal of condition. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 23, Number 2 / August, pages 69–74.