Differential effects of androgens, estrogens and socio-sexual context on sexual behaviors in the castrated male goat

William F. Fritz, Lena S. Sena, Susan E. Becker, Larry S. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The behavioral and endocrine activation of sexual behaviors exhibited by male goats, especially self-enurination (SE), is poorly understood. In the first experiment, to assess the influence of socio-sexual context on SE in bucks, the effects of distance from does, the presence of estrous versus non-estrous does and the presence of another buck on SE and courtship frequencies of intact male goats (bucks; n = 12) were tested using a unique behavior test apparatus. For experiments 2 and 3, to test the relative contributions of sex steroid hormones and socio-sexual context on SE, castrated male goats (wethers; n = 20) were randomly divided into five groups and injected for seven weeks with one of the following: 25 mg testosterone propionate (T), 25 mg dihydrotestosterone propionate (DHT), 100 μg estradiol benzoate (E), 100 μg E and 25 mg DHT (E + DHT), or oil (CON). The effects of these treatments on frequency of SE and courtship were assessed using the behavior test apparatus (social scenarios) adapted from the findings in experiment 1. In one scenario, a wether could observe (from 4.6 m) a buck and estrous female (doe) together in a wire mesh holding pen. In a different scenario, the wether could observe (from the same distance) a buck that could only court the estrous doe through a wire mesh barrier. Finally, to observe the effects of steroid treatment on mounting and ejaculation frequencies, in addition to SE and courtship, each wether was placed in a pen with an estrous doe for 10 min. After a five-week, treatment-washout period, wethers were randomly assigned to different treatment groups and retested. In experiment 1, bucks that were distanced from females displayed more SEs than those with fence-line contact, while those with fence-line contact displayed more bouts of courtship (P < 0.05). In experiments 2 and 3, courtship frequencies displayed in all three scenarios were greater than CON only for groups exposed to estrogen directly or via aromatization (T, E + DHT, E; P < 0.05). Frequencies of SE exhibited during behavior tests in which the wether was watching were greater than CON only for androgen-treated groups (T, E + DHT, DHT; P < 0.05). In contrast, when the wether was free to interact with the female, only the DHT group displayed SE at a higher frequency than CON (P < 0.05). Treatment had no effect on mount frequencies in this test scenario, however ejaculation frequencies were highest for T and E + DHT (P < 0.05). These studies suggest that the courtship behaviors of the male goat are estrogen-dependent. However, SE appears to be activated by androgens. It was also demonstrated that social context contributes as much to behavior expression as steroid treatment, as in social scenario 2 some sexual behaviors were displayed in similar frequencies across groups, despite differing sex steroid treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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