Pigs are not very smart, contrary to some urban mythology. Pigs have very tiny brains, about the size of a tea cup. They’re very good at being pigs, at their instinctual behavior, but they’re not intellectual giants. Their heads look big because they have so much muscle and bone. Their head is a great shovel designed for rooting. Rather, they’re thick between the ears. For a pig this is a good thing.
That said, we may have one pig who is a peg above the rest in the brains department. He can learn by watching the mistakes that other pigs make. That’s intelligence at some level.
Today we moved a group of grower pigs from one area to a new winter paddock. I dumped some food in the new space and they all came to me. Ben closed the gate. Easy as can be. The problem is the pigs have a strong homing instinct to return to their old space no matter how nice the new space is. Pigs will nose a gate and lift it up, unhinging it through instinctual rooting motions. They can even damage the fencing and gates, bending thick pipes with their powerful neck muscles. Pigs may not be the brightest bulbs but they are very strong.
To prevent the pigs from damaging the gate I put a single hot fence wire low along the bottom. This stops rooting behavior at the gate, prevents damage to the gate and keeps the pigs in their new area so they re-home. Electric fencing is extremely effective. A single thin wire keeps back 10,000 lbs of pork. If the wire is on their side of a physical barrier, even a weak one, it is particularly effective.
Once the fence is setup the pigs have to test it for themselves before they understand. Some will even test it several times – slow learners. However there is a large red grower boar who watched the first pig test the fence. YOWSA! And watched the second pig test the fence! MAMA-MIA! And watched the third pig test the fence. @#$*&#@#! And watched the fourth pig test the fence – who uttered something totally unprintable. The red boar then looked at the fence wire and started shaking. He understood without needing to get shocked. He then walked away from the fence and resumed eating.
The fact that he was able to learn from the experience of others demonstrates he’s smarter than the average pig. Most pigs have to hit the fence, some multiple times, before they learn their lesson. I never did see him hit the fence. Zero failure training. That’s smart.
In a few days the pigs will be re-homed to their new space and the hot wire will no longer be as necessary. At that point they’ll be happy to stay in their new digs with the spacious greenhouse. Of interest is I only need a hot wire on the side of the gate that keeps them from returning. I don’t have to string a hot wire on the other areas. That is to say, there are pigs who came into that space that these pigs vacated. The new pigs have no interest in going forward through the cycle, only back towards where they came. This is homing instinct. It is quite useful in managing the pigs. Messenger pigs anyone?
The dog in the photo at the top is Remus looking over his domain. Remus is not a pig. Remus is more intelligent and smarter than any of the pigs, more than even the best pig like the red boar. He is their guardian and herder. Remus, Hanno and Kavi all helped with moving the pigs around the rotation. Dogs rule.
Outdoors: 7°F/0°F Mostly Cloudy, Some Sun, Some Snow
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/58°F
Daily Spark: Reincarnation: Try, try, try again.