mise à jour du
5 février 2004
Z Säugertierkunde
1972; 37; 232-245
Das Riech-Gähnen bei Rindern (Bovinae)
Ulrich Halder und Rudolph Schenkel
aus dem Zoologischen Institut der Universität Basel
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Summary : Sniff yawning in bovinae
This paper is concerned with a special type of "Sniff yawning". During a study of the Banteng, Bos javanicus, in the javanese Nature Reserve of Udjung Kulon, it was observed that females and males of these bovines inspected the skeleton of a conspecific which was devoid of meat but still smelling.
On these occasions the following behaviour sequence was regularly observed:
  1. sniffing and licking of the bones
  2. raising and stretching forward of the head
  3. licking of the nostrils
  4. yawning
  5. adoption of normal bearing of the head.
On exceptional occasions, 1 and 2 were immediately followed by "Flehmen" or «lipcurl» and then by the sequence 3 to 5.
In single bulls turning up at the skeleton, the sequence with sniff-yawning led over to behaviour which normally occurs in the context of bull rivalry: horning the bornes, the ground, or a near bush, and bawling. If several bulls were together, a lateral threat display was observed in addition.
Some experiments with several species of Bovinae in the zoo of Berlin, additional observations in the zoo and in the wild, and occasional reports of different authors lead to the following provisional statements:
  1. Sniff-yawing occurs in most species of Bovinae.
  2. In addition it has been observed in mammals of very different taxa.
  3. It is not uniquely a reaction to stimulation by bones, but to other stimuli as well. Most often it occurs in the context of special maternal activities, e. g. licking of amnion fluid and placenta after parturition and licking of the offspring.
Sometimes Flehmen and sniff-yawning occur in succession, sometimes vicariously. These facts as well as basic similarities in appearence suggest that sniff-yawning, similar to Flehmen, is in its function a special chemoreceptory process. Although investigations still lack extensiveness, it is tentatively suggested that in sniff-yawning as in Flehmen Jacobsons Organ (Organon vomeronasale jacobsoni) is set in action. Sniff-yawning would appear as the predominantly female-maternal variation of receptory activity involving Jacobsons Organ, while Flehmen would have to be considered as the more spezialized male variation. Despite the similarity between, on one side, yawning in the context of resting or activation behaviour, on the other side sniff-yawning, these behaviours are markedly different from a functional point of view, while sniff-yawning and Flehmen seem more closely related.
Based on these considerations the following phylogenetic relatiuonship is suggested:


Pandiculation: the comparative phenomenon of systematic stretching AF Fraser
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