Pigs are finally enjoying some time in the spotlight as the world realizes that these smart, playful animals make truly fantastic pets. While traditionally pigs have been thought of strictly as farm animals, people now see the unique intelligence that pigs possess. Much like dogs, they are highly social, creative, and a joy to cuddle with. Let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known facts about pigs that prove they belong in the family, not on a plate.
Move Over Dogs — Pigs are the New Smart Pet
When we think of animals that can relate to humans, we typically think of a dog. Domesticated by man so long ago and living in such close contact to us, dogs have developed the ability to read human emotional and intellectual cues. However, pigs have developed this ability, as well. Dogs were domesticated about 12,000 years ago, but pigs followed closely behind at about 9,000 years. It makes sense then, that after thousands of years of human interaction, they have learned much of the human social intelligence that dogs have. A study out of Emory University found that not only do they pass basic intelligence tests involving mazes, puzzles, and teamwork, but they can also perform advanced tasks like controlling a joystick to move a mouse cursor, a trait shared only with chimpanzees. They can also move mirrors to search for hidden food, recognize and communicate through symbols, and exhibit empathy and collaboration.
They Strategize and Compete
Move over Machiavelli — pigs are the next big thing in strategic competition. Not only do they show competitive behavior when it comes to eating, pigs also show signs of strategic planning when it comes to foraging for food. Pigs have favorite places to eat just like humans, and if the pathway there is blocked or has changed, pigs will adapt and find a new route. This shows not only do they remember the location, but they have analyzed its value and can decide whether to share their knowledge with other pigs or not.
Pigs have Empathy and Show it – Often!
Pigs tend to be highly emotional, and relate their emotions with their family and friends! We tend to think of empathy as being a human domain; however, researchers at the Wageningen University recently conducted a study to prove pigs could share their feelings with others. Pigs were introduced to either stressful or positive environments. When the pigs who had been exposed later returned to pigs who had not been exposed to either environment, they were able to communicate the type of environment they had been in, either spreading their joy or stress to a group of pigs who had not experienced either.
They Play Video Games
Pigs are quite playful, which is actually a sign of intelligence. Researchers at Penn State recently developed a pig video game, in which pigs control a specially designed joystick to click on an area of a screen that will result in them being given a treat. The pigs were able to master the joystick and receive treats at their command. The game was adapted from a study done on chimpanzees, and the pig is so far the only other animal to master it. Their play is not limited to video games; they frequently exhibit intelligence in their play by using toys and tools, chasing each other, mock-fighting, and even forming teams.
They Have a Sense of Individuality
Pigs can discriminate between different humans and animals, distinctly remembering individuals and whether they are friends or foes. While they primarily use scent to tell one individual from another, they exhibit a clear preference for familiar faces. Pigs can even remember an individual after a long period of time has lapsed, and can’t even be tricked by dressing people in the same outfits, or changing up other physical cues.