Think that a pig's grunts are just meaningless noise? Think again.
A study out of Lincoln and Belfast Universities have found that the domestic pig is a highly social and vocal animal. Their grunts serve a variety of purposes, including communicating with other group members while foraging, parent-offspring communication, or to signal if they are distressed.
However, grunting wasn't just used to communicate with other pigs. It also gave clues about how happy they are in their surroundings. Pigs that are happy with the state of their environment tend to be much more vocal than those that are unhappy.
Even more interesting was the fact that the researchers found that a pig's personality also played a role in their level of grunting.
To determine this, 72 male and female juvenile pigs were divided into two types of pens: enriched and barren.
The pigs spent three minutes in the barren pen and three minutes in the enriched pen, which contained a bucket or an orange traffic cone that they had not seen before. The test was repeated again two weeks later to determine if the pig's responses were repeated, indicating it was characteristic of their personality trait.
After the study was completed, the researchers determined that the pigs with more proactive personalities grunt more often than reactive animals.
Male pigs in the barren pen also made fewer grunt compared with those housed in the enriched environment, suggesting that male pigs were affected more by their environment.
For those with pigs, it's important to take these results of these studies into consideration when choosing housing. Regardless of your pig's personality, they should be provided with a pen that offers a variety of enrichment activities to keep them happy.
If you're ever unsure about whether or not your pig is happy in their surroundings, just take a second and listen to them. If this study is correct, they'll be quick to tell you if they like where they live!
We look forward to many future conversations, piggies!
Have you noticed different pig vocalizations? Let us know in the comments below!
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