Pigs are Smarter Than You Think
When you think of intelligent animals, which animal comes to your mind? Dolphins? Chimpanzees? Maybe even dogs? However, did you know that pigs –yes the same pigs that we consume regularly– are considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in the world? Research shows that pigs can easily outsmart dogs, and stand on almost the same intellectual level as chimpanzees. Who would’ve thought!
One major marker of pig intelligence is that pigs are able to strategize, and engage in competition. If the route to a feeding site is changed, pigs are able to think, and find a new route. This is remarkable, because it shows that pigs remember the location of their feeding sites, and that they have surprising problem solving abilities. On top of that, pigs have been shown to engage in tactical deception, where they actively strategize on how to out-compete and trick other pigs when foraging– this type of behavior is present in very few animal species, and is a sign of high cognitive intelligence.
Adding on, pigs have been shown to be very social and empathetic, which are both markers of intelligence. Although we tend to think of empathy as a human emotion, pigs have been shown relating their emotions with friends and family. In a study where groups of pigs were either placed in positive or stressful environments, the pigs, upon returning, were able to communicate the joy/stress of the environment that they were in to other pigs that did not experience the same environment. Pigs also live in complex social groups, and are able to distinguish other pigs, being able to identify family, friends, and strangers. Surprisingly, pigs have also been shown to be able to distinguish between humans, and can remember one individual human for extended periods of time, even if they are wearing different clothing.
On top of all that, research by Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and professor at Emory university, demonstrated that pigs have outstanding long-term memory, are able to comprehend basic symbolic language, can use a joystick to move an on-screen cursor (a task previously thought to be limited to chimpanzees), and more.
Now that we know that pigs are playful, social, and highly intelligent animals, maybe when we order that bacon sandwich for lunch tomorrow, we can take a second to reconsider. Let’s all take a step towards thinking of the world’s 4th most intelligent animal as friend, not food.