Pigs are fascinating animals. Although they can be found on every continent except Antarctica, many of us haven’t had a chance to get to know a pig up close and personal. While Compassion in World Farming works tirelessly for higher pig welfare year-round, today marks a time to reflect on why these animals deserve our love and respect and what makes them truly remarkable.
Pigs are often ranked among the most intelligent animal species in the world, alongside elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, and crows. Pigs who are kept as pets or by otherwise doting caregivers can learn their names by only 2 to 3 weeks old. Scientific studies have shown pigs can even master video games, including one recent study where all four pigs who participated succeeded in understanding the challenge. Their ability to remember, navigate efficiently, understand their surroundings, and anticipate the future are comparable to that of a three-year-old child. They are also known to be able to focus on tasks with greater intensity than chimpanzees.
Pigs also love to play! Pigs will play with balls, sticks, straw, pumpkins, boxes, and other objects. They also play with each other by pushing, chasing, or mock fighting with each other, just like dogs do. Pigs will even scamper, leap, pivot, run, and flop on the ground just for some good old-fashioned fun.
Pigs are unique in that they are highly sensitive and emotional animals, and one of the few animals to show empathy. They react to the emotions of other pigs around them, feeling happy when they see another pig feeling happy, stressed when another pig feels stressed, etc. They love to snuggle with other pigs or human companions.
Pigs are also very social animals and will express excitement when they see a person or animal they like. They are known for rushing to greet their human and pig friends and “talk” with them through grunts and other vocalizations. Pigs who are kept by humans become upset when they are forced to be alone and are much more relaxed when they have a companion.
Like other intelligent species, pigs naturally live in complex social structures. These typically consist of matrilineal groups of two to five females and their offspring. Male pigs typically leave after they are a year old to form “bachelor” groups. They communicate with each other using twenty unique vocalizations and other physical cues such as wagging their tails when they are happy or nipping when they are annoyed.
Physical Similarity to Humans
At first glance, we may not look very similar to pigs. However, closer examination reveals that we share many similarities. Pigs are closely related to humans in terms of anatomy, genetics, and physiology. For instance, pigs and humans both have light-colored eyes, hairless skin, and thick eyelashes. Additionally, our organs are similar in size and functional features. Pig insulin (a hormone that regulates glucose levels) differs from human insulin by only one amino acid, making it so similar to that of humans that for years it was used to treat diabetes (nowadays, biosynthetic human insulin is used for diabetes patients). Research suggests that the physical similarities between pigs and humans are the result of convergent evolution rather than shared ancestry.
Similar to humans, pigs are omnivorous by nature and can digest a variety of foods. Domesticated pigs eat a diet rich in wheat, corn, barley, oats, soy, alfalfa, and hay. However, wild pigs will eat grass flowers, leaves, mushrooms, and tree bark as well as small birds, rabbits, worms, eggs, and insects. Pigs also love to snack on a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, celery, squash, radishes, watermelon, bananas, and berries. They can even snack on nuts, grains, and beans (please check with a professional before feeding any food to a pig, as some foods can be toxic to them!)
Pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans. There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them. ~ Dr. Lori Marino
How you can celebrate
Try a plant-based pork alternative
There are many store-bought, homemade, and restaurant alternatives to pork-based dishes. Make it a point to try one of them today, or if you have already tried several, try a new one!
Visit a local farm sanctuary
What better way to celebrate National Pig Day than by saying hello to one?! Find a local farm sanctuary and schedule a time to meet one of our curly-tailed friends up close.
Donate to Compassion in World Farming
Sadly, millions of pigs are raised in cruel conditions and slaughtered each year. Help give them a better future by making a donation to Compassion in World Farming in honor of National Pig Day.