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Natural Pig Behavior - 1

Range and habitat

A pigs natural habitat is wooded area?s and river valleys. Areas inhabited by pigs in the wild always contain the following:

  • Water
  • Feeding areas
  • Resting places
  • Separate sites for cooling down, rubbing and defecation
  • Range between 100-2500 ha

Key learning:

Pigs choose to have separate areas for feeding, resting and defecating. Good pig sties should allow sufficient space for pigs to create such zones.

Activity patterns

Pigs have two peak periods of activity - early morning and evening.

  • Focus during activity periods: looking for food
  • After dusk pigs usually rest
  • Within groups periods of eating and resting tend to be synchronised
  • Pigs construct simple nests for sleeping, particularly if the weather is cold

Key learning:

Pigs will naturally seek out food in the morning and evening. Good pig raising systems will provide feed in these time periods as they match the pig?s body clock drives.

Social organisation

A pigs social organisation is highly developed. Within hours of birth social dominance relationships formed. These establish stable social heirarchies whereby lower ranking pigs will be submissive to higher ranking pigs. Fighting is rare (except between closely matched mature males during breeding season)

Key learning:

It is in a pig's nature to live in stable family groups with clearly established social hierarchies. Good pig raising systems should respect this instinct by ensuring pigs are kept in stable family groups from birth to slaughter.

Social unit

The basic social unit of any grouping of pigs is:

  • 1-4 females
  • Their offspring
  • Boars are relatively solitary
  • Boar joins females during mating season
  • Sows give birth once or twice a season
  • Breeding often synchronized

Key learning:

The natural family grouping of pigs is one that has 1 - 4 female sows with their offspring. Pig raising systems should raise pigs in small 'family' groups and should consider allowing female sows and offspring to live together.

Keeping cool and skin care

Pigs have no sweat glands apart from disc on snout. To keep cool and maintain their skin in good condition pigs will: 

  • Lie in mud wallows to cool down
  • Rub against trees and mud wallows to keep skin in good condition

Key learning:

External supports are needed by pigs to cool down and maintain skin health. Good pig raising systems will ensure mud wallows or some other means are available for cooling off.

Physical contact

Pigs like to keep in physical contact with each other. They often sleep and rest lying together, both for companionable reasons and to help reduces heat loss during cold weather and night.

Key learning:

Pigs are highly social and seek out physical contact with one another. Open pen systems that allow pigs to have physical contact with other pigs in a stable family hierarchy respect this instinct.

Defecating and urinating

When defecating and urinating pigs:

  • Select specific areas
  • Usually in natural corridors between bushes and trees
  • Away from lying down area

Key learning:

Pigs choose to defecate and urinate away from areas where they live and sleep. Good pig raising systems will ensure sufficient space to allow pigs to urinate / defecate away from the main feeding and lying down areas.