Pigs are smarter than dogs

Behavioral research Experiments show: pigs are smarter than dogs

Marianne Wondrak has 40 pigs and has been researching animal behavior at the Messerli Research Institute of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna for six years. An experiment was carried out there with an unsolvable task. On one side there was a group of pigs raised by people in the family, and on the other an almost equal number of dogs.

The animals received a clear plastic bowl with food. They could knock this plastic bowl over and get the food. The second time, the bowl was firmly anchored to the ground so that it couldn't be turned over. “We were interested in how long will the dogs try before they give up? And how long will the pigs try before they give up?” Says Wondrak. "And above all: Which of the two turns to the person for help? Who speaks to the person directly by turning to him and making contact?"

Pigs were more persistent than dogs

The astonishing result: the pigs lasted longer, they developed ambition and were thus more independent than the dogs. Experiments with dogs and wolves have already shown that dogs turn to a contact person for help. That - according to Wondrak - lies in the history of domestication of animals. After all, they have been people's loyal companions for 15,000 years.

Of course, pigs are also domesticated, but they have not come so close to humans in the last few centuries. So the pigs were more independent in this experiment: Does that also mean that the bristle animals are smarter than the popular fur noses?

"It depends on the attempt," says Wondrak. In this case the pigs would have tried harder than the dogs. Some of the dogs should even have been excluded who had not even learned to knock over the cup.

The pigs all made it. Now, however, this is a context that pigs are very good at, that is their rooting movement. I don't want to say that dogs are dumber than pigs, but they don't take anything, I would say. With regard to this particular task featured in this study, the pigs learned better than the dogs.

Marianne Wondrak, Messerli Institute

Pigs also turn to their humans

But the astonishing thing: After a long time, the pigs turned to people. Which in turn speaks for their cunning. "At first we saw what we expected: that the pigs are less oriented towards humans than the dogs. But they are oriented towards humans." So far, research has assumed that the domesticated pig actually behaves in a very similar way to its wild ancestor and cares little about humans. "But they actually turn to people, even if they don't do it as strongly as dogs. As it is always the case in research: you find something and find a hundred new questions."

Now it is necessary to research more precisely how pigs communicate at all? "The craziest thing about domestic pigs is that, unlike domestic dogs, we know almost nothing about them, especially about their social behavior and also about their behavior towards other species, i.e. towards humans," says Wondrak. "I myself, who have been dealing with pigs for six years, cannot fully understand what they mean by communication with me."

Pig social research is still in its infancy

It could well be that the pigs simply communicate differently with people, says the researcher. "Pigs vocalize more. We have made a similar attempt before: They grunt and squeak and show with their vocalizations that they are not at all satisfied with the situation. And the tail works differently, and the ears stand up."

Wondrak says: When it comes to pigs' social behavior, research is still in its infancy. Therefore, according to the scientist from Vienna, we have to rethink - the animals deserve more appreciation. In terms of willingness to learn, they are comparable to dogs, in terms of their stubbornness they are more like a cat. So if you are still undecided when it comes to choosing a pet, you can ask yourself the question: Which little pig can it be?