How smart are pigs?
Pigs are extraordinary animals with remarkable cognitive abilities. Recognizing and spreading awareness of their intelligence can lead to more compassionate and respectful treatment of these amazing animals.
When it comes to discussing animal intelligence, pigs often tend to be overlooked in favour of more commonly recognized intelligent species like dolphins, dogs, and primates. However, it may surprise you to learn that pigs are highly intelligent creatures.
Pigs, scientifically known as Sus scrofa domesticus, possess remarkable cognitive abilities that have been increasingly acknowledged by researchers and animal behaviourists.
Pigs have demonstrated remarkable problem-solving abilities, spatial memory, and an aptitude for learning complex tasks. They possess an excellent long-term memory and are quick to learn from both positive and negative experiences. Studies have shown that pigs can navigate mazes, distinguish between different objects, and even play simple video games with commendable accuracy!
Here are some interesting aspects of pig intelligence:
- Sensory abilities: Pigs have a highly developed sense of smell, as evidenced by their well-known use in truffle hunting! Pigs use their noses to not only find food when foraging but also in a social context – to tell other pigs apart, for mating, and even to distinguish the emotional state of other pigs!
- Communication: Pigs have advanced communication skills. As pigs have a wide range of hearing they mainly use auditory (sound) signals to communicate with each other. Amazingly, they also have the capacity to communicate with humans - they can learn and respond to human gestures (like pointing) and vocal cues.
- Spatial learning and memory: Pigs are exceptionally good at using spatial information – multiple studies have found that pigs are highly competent at learning to navigate through mazes.
- Tool-use and problem-solving: We often associate tool-use with intelligence. On the list of animals who are known to use tools are animals such as crows, dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants, and more. Now, we can add pigs to the list: pigs have been observed using bark as a shovel to help them dig a nest! Pigs have also been documented using mirrors as a tool to find hidden items demonstrating their innovative problem-solving abilities.
- Social complexity: Pigs are highly social animals and form strong bonds within their social groups. They show a preference for familiar individuals over strangers, and can even discriminate between individuals by smell alone!
- Emotional intelligence: Pigs exhibit a wide range of emotions, including joy, anger, and fear. Their emotional intelligence enables them to respond to complex social dynamics and adapt accordingly. Studies have even found that pigs display emotional contagion – a form of empathy.
- Personality: Pigs are individuals, each with their own distinct personality. Many personality traits have been studied in pigs, including boldness, exploration, sociability, and coping.
Pigs are indeed clever animals, possessing a fascinating array of cognitive abilities. Their problem-solving skills, social complexity, and adaptability are a testament to their remarkable intelligence.
There is no doubt that pigs are sentient beings – they have subjective experiences, thoughts, feelings, and individual personalities.
Sadly, on average, 22-million of these intelligent, sentient beings are slaughtered each year in Canada alone. Most of these pigs are raised in intensive, factory farms, where they are subjected to painful and stressful procedures, and raised in cramped and unnatural conditions.
Treating animals with respect, providing appropriate living conditions, and minimizing unnecessary harm are essential principles that should be applied regardless of an animal's level of intelligence.
Help give pigs a better life
Together, we can make a significant impact on the lives of farmed animals and the future of farming in Canada. November 28 is Giving Tuesday* and when you give a gift, it will be matched, contributing to the growing momentum toward more compassionate and sustainable agricultural practices.
Your special gift helps us end the suffering of factory farmed animals by:
- Moving governments and industry to phase out the use of prophylactic antibiotics.
- Campaigning globally for improved welfare standards for all farm animals, such as group housing over cages and farrowing crates, to end to piglet mutilations such as tail docking and improved transport conditions.
- Changing the hearts and minds of retailers, restaurants, and consumers to reduce their dependance on cheap animal products, while pushing Governments to act at COP28 by committing to policies that would see less production and consumption of meat and dairy products.
Help create a better world for farm animals like pigs and have 2x the impact when you give a gift this Giving Tuesday.