Piglets on a high-welfare farm

Pig facts

Common name: Pig
Scientific name: Sus scrofa
Distribution: Worldwide

Here are some thought-provoking facts about pigs! 

Pigs are very social animals who even snuggle up nose to nose while sleeping if kept in groups. They are very chatty, with a vocabulary of over 20 different sounds. Through high-pitched squeals, pigs can communicate fear, distress, and pain to other pigs, while low grunting signals content. 

They also have exceptional senses. Pigs have evolved to have high-frequency hearing and they have an amazing sense of smell thanks to very sensitive noses, but they also see the world very differently from us. This is because their eyes are set on the sides of their head giving them a 310° panoramic view of the world around them. 

Pigs don’t have functioning sweat glands, that’s why they love to wallow in mud during the day, to keep nice and cool. Mud also provides the added bonus of protection from the sun. It’s not a messy pig, just a sun-safe pig! But pigs are naturally very clean animals and when given the proper amount of space, will always poop well away from their feeding and sleeping areas. 

They are also much faster than you might expect. An adult pig can run up to 18kph, meaning that they can run a whole kilometre in well under four minutes! 

Pig in hay

Pigs are sentient beings – they think, feel, and have unique personalities

  • Pigs respond emotionally to music. The structure of the music is important, as some types of music elicit fear in pigs, whereas others elicit playfulness, calmness or happiness.  
  • Pigs make a range of facial expressions to signal aggressive intentions, including shortening their snout and pointing their ears forwards. When pigs are scared and retreat from an attack, they place their ears back on their heads and slightly close their eyes. 
  • Pigs love to play, and playing makes them feel good. When they are playing and feeling positive, pigs move their tails more and move their ears less.  
  • Pigs can use mirrors! A study of pig learning found that pigs can obtain information from a mirror, like finding food out of sight but visible in the mirror, indicating assessment awareness in pigs. 
  • Pigs are empathetic. Pigs have been found to exhibit emotion contagion – they feel an emotion after witnessing the same emotion in another individual.  
  • Pigs who have been defeated in previous fights, and pigs with aggressive personalities, feel more emotionally negative when they face a new opponent.  
  • Pigs watching an aggressive fight between conspecifics, actually feel more anxious than the pigs who are fighting. They are likely to be anticipating the imminent threat of attack.  
  • Anxiety levels in pigs reduce faster after a fight when they can engage in positive social behaviours with other pigs. This is known as social buffering, and it can help protect the emotional state of pigs.  
  • Pigs born at low birth weight, are mildly impaired cognitively, as they require more training for tasks, compared with pigs born at a normal weight.
Pigs outside on a high welfare farm

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