Pigs rarely receive the love they deserve. Since they are usually pictured as mere mud-swilling incubators of bacon, these animals are capable of some remarkably sensitive and socially intelligent behavior.
The research could signal a new cognitive skill previously unknown amid swine, which are well known for their intelligence.
As additional proof of this, scientists have documented a bunch of pigs using tools for the first time.
Researchers determined Visayan wartlike pigs (Sus cebifrons), a critically endangered species native to simply 2 islands within the Philippines, using sticks to dig and build nests at a zoological garden in France, describing it during a study within the journal Mammalian Biology.
While observing the pigs at Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Meredith Root-Bernstein noticed one amongst the females, named Priscilla, dig a nesting space with a stick in her mouth.
“She would deposit some leaves, move them to a distinct spot on the mound, and dig a bit with her nose,” Meredith Root-Bernstein, lead study author, wrote in her observation notes back in October 2016.
“At one purpose she picked up a flat piece of bark concerning ten cm x forty cm that was lying on its mound, and holding it in her mouth, used it to dig, lifting and pushing the soil backward, quite energetically and speedily.”
In a series of later experiments in 2016 and 2017, Root-Bernstein and her team of researchers later documented 3 out of 4 of the pigs scooping out soil using a stick in their mouth. this means, say the researchers, that the behavior was transmitted socially between the family.
Many animals can use tools, from orangutans and gibbons to octopuses and insects. Indeed, some species of animals, like great apes, will use tools for dozens of various uses. maybe thanks to its association with human behavior, tool use is commonly related to intelligence. once renowned primatologist Jane Goodall discovered that wild chimpanzees use tools, her analysis partner Louis Leakey reportedly said: “Now we should redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or settle for chimpanzees as humans.”
However, using tools doesn’t essentially mean an animal is super-intelligent. for example, ants use tools to forage for food and are probably self-conscious, however, we don’t think about them as “smart” animals within the same sense of chimps or dolphins.
It seems that the real show of intelligence with reference to tool use is flexibility and adaptivity. It may well be a distinct ability to use a tool as a result of it’s instinctively hardwired into your brain, compared to innovating the use of objects based on the distinctive circumstance around you.
While the researchers say it’s not entirely clear wherever the pigs’ digging behavior fits into this, they do argue it may be outlined as the initial observed self-generated tool use within the Suidae family, the band of mammals that includes pigs, hogs, and boars.