While at the Calgary Stampede rodeo, Chris Hadfield got back into the “scientist” saddle again.

Chris had a great tete-a-tete with University of Calgary Veterinary Medicine research Dr. Ed Pajor at today’s rodeo. The two had intense conversations about Ed’s work studying behaviors and response indicators on the bucking horses and bulls at Stampede.

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This is the third year that Pajor and his team of U of C researchers have been behind the chutes at the rodeo, studying and noting behavior cues for any changes as the animals are shifted from the pens to the chutes and back again after their performance. This year, the team is testing a high-tech tool called an IRT scanner – infrared thermography. The scanner registers heat, and by snapping an IRT image of an animal’s eye, researchers can get an idea if its temperature is rising. That may be an indicator of anxiety.

Commander Hadfield stopped by to observe the researchers in action monitoring the horses in the chutes. He was very interested in the methodology and discussing the specifics of the IRT scanner. He was curious to find out what different temperature reading would indicate, and how that data would be correlated with the observational notes researchers are taking.

Ed and Chris discussed the intent of the research, which is to better understand how different bucking stock respond to the environment and to determine if many are exhibiting fear or stress behaviors. Early indicators are that is it very rare for bucking animals to anxiety and stress. Ed explains that animals like horses and cattle experience those things when they are exposed to anything new, and that gradual exposure to things like pens, chutes and loud crowds has conditioned these animal athletes to recognize they are not under threat.

Chris expressed his appreciation for how the U of C and the Calgary Stampede are looking to science and research to better understand animal handling.

Click here to view the latest update on U of C research on rodeo bucking stock.