Eight interesting things pigs do
Lunar New Year, 2019, is the ‘Year of the Pig.' It's a fitting time to fully appreciate these highly intelligent creatures.
Pigs are capable of performing advanced tasks, strategising, and demonstrating teamwork. After thousands of years of interactions with humans, they’ve also gathered much of the same human social intelligence that domesticated dogs have.
1. Pigs show empathy towards one another: ‘tail wagging’ in response to seeing other pigs being treated well, and ‘putting their ears backward’ in response to seeing other pigs treated badly.
2. Pigs can use mirrors to assess their environment. When eight pigs were shown a reflection of their food bowl, seven of them located the food bowl using the reflection, while only one went behind the mirror to try and find it.
3. Did you know that pigs are good swimmers? In the Bahamas there is a small uninhabited island where many feral pigs enjoy a good swim.
4. Pigs can use decoys! They have been shown to conceal the ‘prize’ food source from other pigs by leading others to smaller food sources first.
5. Piggy Stardust! Playing music encourages piglets to play together.
6. Pigs are highly vocal animals and have special calls for different situations. For example, they ‘scream’ when in pain, ‘bark’ when they are surprised and ‘grunt’ when nursing. Negative situations (such as castration, isolation, and restraint) produce much higher and longer vocalisations than positive situations (such as nursing, playing, and reunions).
7. When young pigs are reared in enriched environments with other pigs and objects to play with, they are more socially and cognitively developed than pigs raised in confinement.
8. Mother pigs recognise their piglets’ calls. In a study where mother pigs were played recordings of piglet sounds, they responded more strongly to the calls of their own piglets than those of unfamiliar piglets.
Unfortunately, in industrial farms, pigs housed in cramped cages are prevented from doing so many things. Above are just eight of their many amazing abilities. If the number ‘eight’ does bring good fortune, let’s make it a better future for pigs in industrial farms around the world.
Pigs can’t make New Year’s resolutions to transform their own lives but together we can stop their suffering.