In cattle, a gregarious species, the social group influences individual stress responses to fear-eliciting situations. As handling can be stressful for farm animals, it can be hypothesised that social partners modify individual responses to handling. The present experiment investigated the effect of the presence or absence of social partners on behavioural reactions of beef calves in a Ž . handling test. At the age of 10 months, 38 calves from two breeds Salers and Limousine were individually subjected to the docility test, once while in visual contact with four familiar peers, and once in the absence of peers, following a crossover design. The docility test procedure Ž . Ž included physical separation from peers 30 s; period 1 , exposition to a stationary human 30 s; . Ž . period 2 , and handling by human 30 s–2.5 min, according to the success in handling; period 3 . Ž . In absence of human period 1 , calves in visual contact with their peers spent more time Ž . motionless than when peers were totally absent P-0.001 . The social environment also Ž . influenced the duration of handling period 3 ; the human required more time to successfully Ž . handle calves when peers were present P-0.05 . In conclusion, the presence of peers affects individual calves’ reactions to the docility test. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.