Pigs Can Play Video Games, and Other Interesting Facts About Swine

Pigs Can Play Video Games, and Other Interesting Facts About Swine

March 1st means spring is just around the corner, it may soon be light after 6 p.m., and blooming plants are on their way. It also happens to be National Pig Day. To mark the occasion, here are some surprising facts about our swine friends.

Pigs Can Learn to Play Video Games

If you need a gaming buddy, you could look to... a pig? Well, possibly. A Purdue University study found that pigs could learn how to use a joystick to play a game similar to Pong. It involved hitting line targets around the edge of the screen, which progressively got harder as the task was completed.

At the time, lead author Candace Croney said, "The fact they can do it at all suggests that there may be other things that they know, they understand, they learn that they can do, that really should raise questions for us about what else they might be capable of, that we just haven't found good ways to ask them about."

Pigs Get Attached to Their Owners

We know dogs are fairly attached to their humans, and there are plenty of velcro cats to be found, possibly blocking your view of this as they try to sit on you. It turns out pigs can behave in quite the same way. Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest tested dogs and pet pigs to see how much they preferred to be near their humans.

They found that when pigs were let into an unfamiliar room that contained their owner and a familiar object, they chose to be near to their person instead of the object just as much as dogs did. For pigs, there was an added element, though: They preferred touch more than dogs, grazing their owners with their snouts and climbing into their laps.

Pigs Can Get Along with Cats

If you welcome pigs as a family member, there's one particular species they may be quite fond of. Pigs have been known to get along with cats. The British Columbia SPCA says the two species can live together peacefully, though pigs may not be very compatible with dogs.

A viral story in 2021 showed such a bond. The friendship between Wilbur the pig and Billy the kitten was chronicled by their owner Jody Fraser on social media. She said the two became best friends within just a few days of meeting each other. You can see the buddies in Fraser's Instagram post below:

Pigs' Intelligence Rivals That of Dogs... and Toddlers

If a creature plays video games and chooses to hang out with cats, it has to be pretty smart, right? Several studies about pigs have come to that conclusion. The Humane Society of the United States notes that research has suggested that pigs are actually smarter than 3-year-olds and dogs.

One particular analysis of multiple studies, published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, also found that there is evidence that pigs have complex behaviors similar to dogs and chimpanzees.

Mother Pigs Have Been Known to Sing to Their Babies

Mothers the world over sing lullabies to their babies to calm them and get them to sleep. Mother pigs are no different. Sows have been observed singing to their babies while nursing. The connection this provides makes it unsurprising that the mother-child bond is strong. According to the nonprofit World Animal Protection, piglets learn to run to their mothers' voices.

Pigs Communicate Many Different Things to Each Other

As you read in the last fact, pigs have 'voices.' The species utilizes a number of grunts and squeals to communicate among themselves. In fact, one study from the United Kingdom found that this communication is fairly complex. Depending on the grunt, a pig may be sending a message to their parent or offspring, letting other pigs know where they are, or voicing distress. A pig's personality was also found to impact its communication style.

The study's lead investigator Dr Lisa Collins explained, "The sounds they make convey a wide range of information such as the emotional, motivational and physiological state of the animal. For example, squeals are produced when pigs feel fear, and may be either alerting others to their situation or offering assurance. Grunts occur in all contexts, but are typical of foraging to let other members of the group know where they are."

Pigs Are Actually Very Clean

People often associate pigs with being dirty, but this is a misconception. Pigs do roll in the mud, but it's primarily to cool down on a hot day because they're unable to sweat. Apart from that, they're one of the cleaner animals you'll encounter. They are even particular about where they go when nature calls, making sure they don't eliminate near their sleeping spots or eating spots.

Pigs Can Dream

Dreams can be a welcome visitor when you're dozing the night away. They don't just visit humans, though. Pigs are thought to be among the animals that experience dreams. Research has found that pigs go through Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycles, much like people do. However, while humans spend about 25% of their nightly sleep in the REM state, it's about 10% for pigs.

Pigs Are Relatively Fast

Pigs do have a hefty build, but they may just sneak past you. Over short distances, our swine friends can run up to 11 miles per hour until they tire themselves out. Their wild brethren, though, can really cover some ground. Wild boards can top out at about 30 miles per hour, which is actually faster than sprinter Usain Bolt, whose fastest recorded speed was just under 28 miles per hour. We'd better watch out. They could be coming for our gold medals.

Pigs Can Face Harsh Conditions When Raised for Food

Unfortunately, pigs raised for meat can often have a rough experience. On large factory farm operations, pregnant pigs are typically confined in crates that provide for very little movement. This lasts throughout their pregnancy and after they've given birth. The experience can be stressful mentally for the sows. It also deprives them of their natural instinct to build a nest for their young. Their piglets are taken away about three weeks after they're born.

There have been efforts to help improve pigs' wellbeing on farms, however. Proposition 12, which was passed by California voters in 2018, officially went into effect in January 2022. Its implementation was delayed about a month later by order of a Superior Court Judge, though, who said the state needed to wait six months to implement the law after finalizing regulations for whole pork sales.

The measure bans the sale of pork from breeding pigs that were kept in spaces smaller than the minimum space set under the law, 24 square feet of usable floorspace per pig. Supporters say these changes will lead to more humane treatment of pigs raised for meat.

If you'd like to help pigs, consider signing this petition calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to end the use of gestation crates.

Michelle Milliken

Michelle has a journalism degree and has spent more than seven years working in broadcast news. She's also been known to write some silly stuff for humor websites. When she's not writing, she's probably getting lost in nature, with a fully-stocked backpack, of course.

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