Seven Reasons Why Pigs Are Smarter Than You Think

24th Mar 2017

With their excellent memory and ability to quickly learn new skills, pigs are way smarter than you may think; some studies even suggest that an adult pig has the same intelligence levels as a three-year-old! Read on to find out exactly why our pink curly-tailed friends are so clever.

Share this Image On Your Site

Pigs have long had a bad rap as dirty and unintelligent creatures, yet science shows us that this is simply not true. A recent paper published in the International Journal of Comparative Study revealed that pigs have similar mental capacities as ‘smart’ animals such as horses, dogs and chimpanzees. For clarity, let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of cognition:

“Cognition is about all the processes that animals have available to them, that allow them to get information, store information, recall it and use it so that they can adapt to the environment that they find themselves in or not.”

While it does make a good headline, a cross-species comparison may not be the best use of this information as these beings inhabit different environments and thus display their intelligence in different ways. Despite this, pigs do have a number of traits which show they are highly intelligent animals. We reveal seven reasons why pigs are much smarter than you think.

Long-Term Memories

Pigs have excellent long-term memories. They are able to remember the faces of up to 30 other pigs, plus they can remember human faces and complex directions in order to find their way home. They can also recall where food is stored, and the spots that they have found food in before.

Incredible Sense of Smell

It’s a fact that pigs are able to find other pigs that they know because of their scent. They can smell pheromones which are emitted from the cheeks of the other pigs, but they have difficulty recognizing one another when this part of the cheek is covered. Pigs also have the ability to distinguish very similar scents, including spearmint from peppermint.

Social Behaviour

Pigs are social creatures: they love to make friends with other living beings and are often seen snuggling up to cows, sheep and domesticated animals. Pigs like to huddle together and sleep snout to snout, while they also rub snouts with one another as a friendly greeting.

Mirror Magic

Unlike Many other animals, pigs have the ability to recognize their reflection in mirrors, and to locate food which is not directly visible to them by using mirrors. This is a mighty skill which is only a handful of other animals and mammals such as dolphins, elephant and chimps can accomplish. Playful and inquisitive, pigs certainly display a range of social behaviours.

Pigs Can't Fly, But They Can Talk

Studies reveal that pigs have the ability to communicate to one another with over 20 different vocalizations. They have certain sounds such as oinks, squeaks and squeals to indicate that they're hungry, in danger or wooing a mate. Mothers have a certain call to get the attention of their little ones, and they have even been known to sing to their sows when they are nursing.

...And They Have Feelings

Much like humans, pigs can display a range of personality traits; some are shy while others can be bossy. However, studies show that almost all pigs are highly-sensitive and can feel both positive and negative emotions. They are aware of loss and suffering and can go through a grieving process and mourn the loss of an offspring.

Sweet Dreams

These cute creatures also have the ability to dream. Adult pigs require around the same amount of sleep per night as humans. Roughly 10% of this sleep time is in a stage of rapid eye movement (REM), which is a phase of deep sleep where dreams are most likely to occur.

Bonus: A Few Fascinating Pig Facts

  • Pigs can recognize their names by the time that they are just 2 weeks old
  • Pigs can run at speeds of up to 11 miles per hour; that’s an impressive seven-minute mile!
  • Pigs represent happiness, fortune and honesty in the Chinese Zodiac
  • A group of young pigs is called a litter, a drove or a drift

So What Does It All Mean?

Author and neuroscientist, Lori Marino said that “in an ideal world, people would use this information to stop eating meat, but I think that we would be happy to just give people the information and let them make their own decisions. This information shows that there are some very compelling reasons to regard pigs as intelligent, aware, emotionally and socially sophisticated beings”.

But ultimately, taking things a little deeper, should intelligence really play a factor in how much we think an animal deserves to suffer?

What world wouldn't benefit from greater compassion for all living beings? Take this information and use it how you will; food for thought, indeed.