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25 Facts about Pigs–All about Swine (Sentience, Intelligence, and Social Behavior)

25 Facts About Pigs–All About Swine (Sentience, Intelligence, and Social Behavior)

When comedian Elayne Boosler said “pigs are smarter than dogs, and both are smarter than Congress” it seems like she had done her homework with regard to pigs.

According to many studies and observances, it is believed the intelligence and sociability of pigs set them apart from other domesticated animals and may even be comparable to other intelligent animals such as elephants, dolphins and great apes.

Pigs tend to have a lot of similarities with humans in terms of emotions and cognitive states and further scientific research has acknowledged their significant mental capabilities, social nature, and capacity to experience pain, pleasure, fear, and joy.

While pigs are also known as hogs or swine, male pigs are called boars, females are known as sows, young are called piglets and herds are also called sounders.

Let’s know some interesting facts about pigs to appreciate how intelligent, social and amazing they are.

Basic Facts about Pigs

The Average Size & Weight of a Pig

1) The body-length ranges from 3 feet to 5.9 feet and can weigh from 50 to 400 kg depending on the type of breed. A Göttingen minipig can weigh as low as 26 kg (57 lb).  

How Long Do Pigs Live?

2) The lifespan of wild boars generally tends to be 11-25 years whereas domesticated pigs raised for meat are usually slaughtered at around 6 months of age when they have not even reached their maturity.

How Fast Can They Run?

3) Though the domestic adult pigs can run at speeds of up to 11 mph (17.7 km/h), the wild boar can hit top speeds of 30 mph (48.2 km/h) and can maintain their speeds up to a distance of 1 mile.

The average human may run faster than a domestic pig, but the wild boars cannot be beaten even by Usain Bolt who’s recorded top speed is 27.8 mph (44.74 km/h) when he finished 100 meters in 9.58 seconds at Berlin.     

Pig Breeds & Number of Pigs in The World

4) There are hundreds of pig breeds around the world. The most common breeds are Yorkshire, Berkshire, Duroc, American Landrace, Chester White, Hampshire, Landrace, Poland China, and Spotted.

5) The worldwide pig population is apparently more than 2 billion if you include the domesticated pigs kept for human consumption, and about 1.2 billion pigs are slaughtered annually [1].

How Pigs Were Domesticated

6) According to historical records, pigs have been domesticated in the Near East about 9,000 years ago with domestication and multiple crossbreeding taking place between Asian and European groups [2]

The modern domestic pigs you see today bred for slaughter are a result of selective breeding for growth and reproduction [3] and descended from Eurasian wild pig (wild boar/Sus scrofa).

Sentience & Intelligence of Pigs

Though we’re still learning about the psychology & behavior of pigs, what is known clearly shows that they share many similarities with animals whom we consider as highly intelligent.   

Pigs are so intriguing animals and just like us they have a wide range of emotions, different & unique personalities, they love to play, and when tested they have shown their capacity to solve challenging problems.   

Memory, Object Identification, and Learning

7) Pigs use olfaction (sense of smell), along with other senses such as touch and vision to identify and differentiate objects in their natural environment. The specialty of their skill is to use all of these senses or to use either visual or olfactory cues to search for food. They also tend to use vision and audition more than olfaction when differentiating humans [4].

8) In one study when the response of pigs on novel and familiar objects was assessed, pigs were able to remember those objects for 5 days and showed their preference for novel objects over familiar ones demonstrating their ability to identify objects based on long-term memory.  

9) They also have shown their capacity to prioritize tasks based on this memory when it comes to foraging. When presented with the choice of having access only to one of two food sources, they frequently preferred the food source with more quantity and remembered the location.

10) Pigs have a good sense of direction learning to navigate mazes and have found their way home even over long distances.

11) In a research done at Pennsylvania State University, pigs were taught to control a specially designed joystick with their snouts with a food reward and they learnt to move the cursor around a computer screen and play simple matching games. The pigs have shown a level of learning in such tasks which is similar to primates.  

Social Behavior


Do Pigs Play?

12) Pigs are playful animals just like dogs and some mammals. A study showed that they participate in various types of play that consist of social play and playing with objects.

They would play with objects such as balls, sticks or straws, shaking, carrying or tossing them. Their other playful motions & gestures include waving their head, scurrying, jumping, hopping, play-fights, pushing & running after each other, nibbling, circling, pawing, and flopping on the ground.

Groups & Hierarchies

13) Pigs are social animals that form matriarchal herds (lead by females) typically comprised of 2-6 sows and their offspring. Boars don’t have any permanent association with such groups. They’re either solitary or be among ‘bachelor groups’.

Similar to a ‘pecking order’ established with chickens, a ‘teat order’ in the social structure of pigs is formed at the beginning stage in the life of piglets, giving each piglet their own teat during the nursing period.

Sows have a good sense of their communal duties within the groups, and if some sows are nursing litters others may share maternal duties by foraging.

Male piglets will remain within the group until other dominant males in the neighborhood force them out when they reach youth at around 7-18 months of age. These young males may then join a ‘bachelor group’ with other young adults and gradually become more solitary with age.


14) Pigs have 20 different recognizable sounds which include oinks, grunts, snorts, growls, barks, snarls, squeaks, and squeals to name a few that have various meanings.

These sounds communicate a wide range of information such as location, feeding, mood, relationships, well-being, motivation, intent, and many other social activities.

There’s a strong vocalization between the sow and her piglets and they will recognize and respond to their mother’s voice when she calls them to suckle. Piglets also have the ability to differentiate between their own mother’s voice from other sows.

Male Female Relationships

15) There is preferential mating between boars and sows.

Preliminary courtship includes boars producing thick foaming saliva rich in pheromones, urinating several times, and grinding teeth. Sows will have erect ears, reddening or swelling of vulva discharging mucus, and release heat pheromones.

During courtship boars will sniff and nuzzle head to head, shoulders, flank, and anogenital area of sows.

Health & Hygiene (who says they’re dirty??)

16) Contrary to popular belief, pigs are naturally hygienic animals and choose remote areas for defecating and urinating far away from their sleeping, living and feeding areas.

Though there is an expression “sweating like a pig”, pigs have no sweat glands and susceptible to heat stress. So bathing in water and wallowing in mud are essential to regulate & maintain body temperature. The mud offers a layer of protection covering their bodies from flies and prevents sunburn.

What Do Pigs Eat (pig diet)

17) Pigs primarily consume plant matter but they’re omnivores and can include a wide array of food in their diet. Their plant foods include grass & herbage, leaves, roots, bulbs, tubers, wild oats, mushrooms, veggies & fruits, nuts, acorns, and flowers.

They also supplement their diet with earthworms, insects, slugs & snails, amphibians, reptiles, rodents, and can even scavenge on carrion.

Fun & Interesting Facts About Pigs

18) Pigs prefer to snuggle close to one another and like sleeping nose to nose

19) Pigs have three times more taste buds than humans

20) Did you know pigs like music? Apparently, it’s so soothing for them to listen to Celine Dion 😉

21) Pigs have 4 toes pointed downwards on each foot but they only walk on 2

22) They can easily learn functional tasks such as operating levers and switches to obtain food and water

23) Pigs can scream above 100 decibels! [5] That’s louder than your kitchen blender or food processor which is 80-90 decibels.

24) The actor James Cromwell who played the role of farmer in the movie ‘Babe’ (1995) where a pig learns to herd sheep, turned vegan during the movie and became an animal rights activist

In the end, if there is a twist to the tale–you know that was about a pig 😉

Do Pigs Eat Their Young? (savaging)

25) Considering the hell like environments in which pregnant sows have been forced to become ‘breeding machines’ by factory farms, this comes as no surprise.

Breeding sows in 'gestation crates'
Image: Farm Sanctuary (CC BY 1.0)

Based on research the reasons for such behavior found to be,

  • Sows are continuously kept in cages with bars even during pregnancy separating them from other pigs and depriving them of natural behavior and social connections
  • The cage is merely 2 meters long and 1 meter wide slightly bigger than her own body where there is not enough room to make a turn
  • By now you know how playful, social and hygienic pigs are. But here she is cramped, lives with her own excrement and, experience boredom, stress, sores, injuries, and depression
  • Some farmers may create further agitation due to their own behavior rubbing salt into the wound
  • Selective breeding by factory farms to produce as many piglets as possible can also cause a lot of discomfort for pregnant sows when giving birth (going against nature)

So what do you think? Can a pregnant human mom happily endure such circumstances?

Pinterest Pin: 25 Facts About Pigs–All About Swine (Sentience, Intelligence, and Social Behavior)Last Thoughts

You got to know some amazing facts about pigs and how intelligent, social, and lively creatures they can be in their own habitat with freedom.

Yet the question remains, how such an intelligent & sentient animal was forcefully bred under a horrific environment & to end their lives with an agonizing death merely to gratify our taste

The bitter truth is while you were reading this post, pigs were killed in thousands and 1.2 billion pigs slaughtered throughout the world annually.

We just hope this post enlightened you and pigs earned your respect and thoughtful consideration.

The best you can do is to ditch meat and choose a vegan diet which reduces the demand for animal products, provides you with many health benefits and environmentally-friendly.  

If you happen to visit a pig sanctuary (listed below), don’t forget to give them a super belly rub. Pigs just can’t get enough of it and you will lose your sense of time!

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Meet Pigs at Sanctuaries:







Image credit: maxpixel

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