Five Extraordinary Facts About Pigs


Have you noticed how often pigs are featured in children’s books and films? Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that they are one of the most intelligent and sociable animals in the world. 

Photo credit: Sammantha Fisher

Since they were first domesticated some 12,000 years ago, pigs have caught the attention of many researchers around the world, since they are the only large mammal to exist on nearly every continent.  

There are so many fun facts about these incredible creatures, but we’ve whittled our list down to five of the most exceptional facts about pigs that you may not yet know!

  1. Pigs are extremely intelligent
Curious piglet looking into the camera

Pigs rank between the top four and top seven of the most intelligent animals in the world. They have a great long-term memory, which helps them find food and avoid unpleasant situations. Pigs are so clever that they can understand some human words, like ‘sit’ and ‘jump’ – they can even learn to play fetch! If given one, pigs actually learn their names after only a couple of weeks. 

Pigs are also great problem solvers. Research shows that pigs can distinguish between shapes that are new and familiar to them, and they can use a mirror to find food that is hidden behind them. Impressive! 

  1. Pigs are wonderful mothers
Two piglets drinking milk from their mother.

Pigs are loving mothers and form very strong bonds with their babies. Right after giving birth, mother pigs – also known as ‘sows’ – will prepare a nest where their piglets can rest and sleep. On cold days, they will use their body to keep their piglets warm. On hot days, they will teach them how to cool off by seeking water or mud.

Mother pigs are also known to sing to their young to let them know it is time for food. In this way, the piglets learn to recognise their mother’s voice and run to her. Studies have shown that piglets are able to distinguish their mother’s vocalisations among those of other sows and respond only to that one. 

Mother pigs educate their young and will discipline naughty behaviour by pushing and nudging them. The maternal love and care of sows lasts long after the piglets have become adults. How sweet!

  1. Pigs are one of the cleanest animals 
A piglet peacefully sleeping in a candid blanket.

Contrary to common belief, pigs are extremely clean and tidy. The myth that pigs are dirty is because they are often covered in mud, but actually this has more to do with science than with enjoying being dirty. Because pigs don’t have sweat glands, they use mud to cool down on hot days. 

Under natural circumstances, pigs avoid going to the toilet near where they eat or sleep. Instead, they create a designated toilet area. 

  1. Pigs are always down for a cuddle

Pigs are one of the most social animals. They love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, like dogs and other mammals do. They form close bonds with each other and love to cuddle and lie down nose-to-nose. 

Pigs also love to chat!  They constantly communicate with each other, from wooing a fellow pig to saying “I’m hungry!”. 

And pigs’ friendliness is not limited to their species. They are very friendly and cuddly with humans too, and they make great companions. They will always grunt with joy when given a good scratch behind the ears!

  1. Pigs can smile!

Yes, you read it right. Pigs are very expressive animals. They can smile and are very good at it! This news comes as a surprise to many of us because we would rarely have seen a pig smile. That’s because – just like us – for them to smile, they need to be happy!

For pigs to be happy they must be treated with love and respect, they must have the freedom to express their personalities and roam freely.

Pigs in factory farms are not able to fulfil their basic needs and instincts. Their relationship with humans is based on fear and terror. Mother pigs have limited interaction with their piglets, able to only touch through a cold cage. Instead of playing with each other, piglets become bored and stressed, causing many to painfully bite their brothers and sisters and sometimes even turn to cannibalism. For this reason, farmers often cut piglets’ tails and clip their teeth, without giving them any painkillers.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for millions of pigs who are confined in factory farms right here in the UK. More than 10 million are slaughtered each year in the UK alone. This is over a thousand pigs slaughtered every hour! 

Animal Equality works tirelessly to ensure that these pigs – and all other farmed animals – are defended and never forgotten.  We work with the media to make sure that these animal’s stories are seen by millions of people every year. We work with MPs to ensure that existing laws are enforced and strictly followed. We urge companies to adopt meaningful animal welfare improvements in order to eliminate some of the worst abuses for those animals currently trapped in the system. 

We know we are up against a multi-million pound industry, but we will not stop fighting until all animals are eventually free.

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