The Intelligent Pig:
The Smartest Domestic Animal in The World
Dec 16, 2008
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The Intelligent Pig: The Smartest Domestic Animal in The World
A roadblock humans have in deciphering intelligence in animals is that we
can't help but assume the smartest ones must resemble us. Clearly, nobody told
that to the pig.
How is intelligence measured? After all, even people can be intelligent or
extraordinary in many ways. Some excel at math, and some are gifted linguists.
Others fail in the academic arena entirely, and shine as masterful artists. One
way to measure intelligence is based on the ability to solve problems.
The associations people have made with the word, ‘pig’, are less than glamorous.
In fact, there are downright negative connotations attached to the word, which
is why we use it to insult people. But, let’s put aside our preconceived ideas
of what we think a pig is, let’s take a look at who they really are.
Pigs have been touted as the smartest, and the cleanest domestic animals in the
world. The phrases, “sweat like a pig” or “smell like a pig”, may come to mind.
But, consider that pigs don’t have sweat glands, and therefore, can’t sweat
(except on the very ends of their snouts). The lack of sweat glands means lack
of odor - affording no credibility to either statement.
To compensate for the lack of a natural way to bring their body temperature
down, pigs seek out water or mud. Pigs rolling in mud may look uncouth, but they
are actually being quite smart. The mud not only keeps them cool, but keeps
biting pests at bay, and prevents sunburn.
As Smart as the Primates
Intelligence research was done with pigs in the 1990s. One of the experiments
was to train the pigs to move the cursor on a video screen with their snouts.
When the pigs used the cursors again, they were able to distinguish between the
scribbles they already knew, and the scribbles they were seeing for the first
time. The pigs learned this skill as fast as the chimpanzees.
All species of pig are smarter than dogs, and capable of abstract
representation. “They can hold an icon in their mind, and remember it at a later
date,” says Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University, who discovered
that pigs dominate at video games with joy sticks. Curtis goes on to say, “Pigs
are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp.”
Smarter Than a Three-Year-Old Child
Other tests were done where the pigs were taught the meaning of simple words and
phrases. Several years later, the instructions were repeated, and the pigs still
remembered what to do. The same thing was done with different objects placed in
front of them. They were taught to jump over, sit by, or retrieve the item.
Three years later, they could distinguish between the items.
The studies also showed:
Pigs lead complex social lives that behaviorists once believed to be true only
Mother pigs sing to their piglets while they are nursing.
They excel at video games that would be hard for a young child, and sometimes
better than the primates.
Pigs have a good sense of direction, and can find their way home from long
They learn from watching one another.
Pigs outsmart each other. One will often follow another pig to food before
grabbing it away from him, and the pig who was tricked will change behaviors to
reduce how many times it is tricked.
In Good Company
Pigs share the smart scene with other amazing animals. Each with their own
specialty, their own aptitude. But, as as far as domestic animals go, the pigs
Other animals of great intellect are:
The great apes, and chimps
There isn't an exact formula for deciphering superior intelligence. Intelligence
in animals, as in humans, is a matter of arenas and degrees. Still, we are a
curious species, and the comparisons remain interesting.
Smarter Than You Think
Mother Pigs Sing To Their Piglets
Pigs Don't Have Sweat Glands
Smartest Domestic Animal