When Pigs Talk

Doctor Doolittle isn’t the only one who can speak Pig Latin!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Pigs are deeper than you think. They have complex emotions and ways of communicating. But can we humans ever TRULY understand them?

Enter Elodie Briefer from the University of Copenhagen and an international team of researchers.

They collected over seven thousand recordings of pigs making noises in different situations. These included pleasant experiences, like nursing from their mother. And unpleasant experiences – like being separated from friends!

The researchers then developed a computer program to analyze the recordings. Could it tell how a pig was feeling based ONLY on the noises it made?

YES! The program correctly predicted the pig’s emotion NINETY-TWO percent of the time! Pigs’ calls in pleasant settings were shorter and had less change in volume. But in stressful settings, pigs made more high-pitched noises, like squeals.

The researchers believe this program could eventually monitor pigs’ well-being in real-time! This could improve animal welfare on farms.

OINK OINK! Now THAT’s some happy pig!

Reference: Briefer, E.F., Sypherd, C.C.R., Linhart, P., Leliveld, L. M. C., Padilla de la Torre, M., Read, E. R., Guérin, C., Deiss, V., Monestier, C., Rasmussen, J. H., Špinka, M., Düpjan, S., Boissy, A., Janczak, A. M., Hillmann, E., & Tallet, C. (2022). Classification of pig calls produced from birth to slaughter according to their emotional valence and context of production. Sci Rep, 12, 3409. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07174-8