Admit it - you've considered adopting a pig at one point or another. However, you never knew if you could bond with it the same way you would with a dog or cat. Some researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest apparently have felt the same way and decided to put it to the test.
The tests aimed to observe the 'natural companionship' of pigs versus their canine counterparts. The first of the two tests aimed to observe the pigs ability to read the human's face. To do so, the researchers fed the two young animals food in 2-minute intervals, making sure to keep eye contact while feeding them.
The results of the study showed that dogs were in fact more responsive to the cues used in the study than the pigs. When food was removed from the dog's line of sight, its first reaction was to fix their eyes upon the human, whereas the pig turned away to do something else entirely.
When it comes to picking up on gestures, the pigs didn't fare quite as well as the dogs. When the researchers gestured towards a bowl with their fingers to indicate which one possessed food inside, the dog was able to pick up on the cue and approach the correct bowl.
Not all hope is lost for pigs
In a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science:
Pigs and humans share a lot of their sensorial capacities that ensure that a large variety of interactions is possible, thus defining a large range of possible relationships. The cognitive capacities of pigs enable them to discriminate between humans and to recognise them individually, but also to generalise their reactions to other humans when necessary. Even if the pig husbandry systems develop to higher degrees of automation, there should still be a place for every day human-pig interactions.
While pigs carry the reputation for being incredibly smart - the 5th smartest animal in the world - they pale in comparison to dogs in their innate responsiveness. However, thanks to their intellectual capacity, they are capable of picking up on human cues relatively quickly. In fact, their intelligence has been said to be comparable to that of a 2-year-old infant.
There is another factor that comes into play when we talk about the gap between dogs and pigs in regards to their inclination to respond and communicate with humans. The domestication of pigs by humans has been happening for around 10,000 years, whereas dogs have had a 5,000-year headstart. Also, while pigs have become more and more commonplace as a household pet, dogs are by far more frequently kept in intimate contact with humans.
Well, we may have been a bit premature when we said we'd be replacing dogs with pigs. While the study showed that the former may be better at the moment, researchers have clearly observed that pigs can develop this sort of capacity for companionship. As if we needed an excuse to look into adopting a pot belly pig.