Are My Pigs Happy?
If you are keeping pigs on your homestead, you are likely interested in their welfare and whether or not they are happy and content. Pigs can communicate many emotions through vocalizations and body language, including whether they are happy. So what are the signs that you can watch for?
What are the top signs to look for to gauge whether your pig is happy? Pigs use a variety of vocalizations to indicate happiness, including soft panting, grunting, squeals of excitement, and even braying and barking. Pigs may also express happiness by wagging their tails, playing with one another and with toys, and by giving kisses and cuddling with other pigs and with humans.
Whether you plan on raising a pig as a pet or keeping them on your homestead as a potential revenue source, being able to tell what your pigs are feeling can help you better care for them. Pigs may use the same behavior to communicate different feelings, so keep reading for a complete breakdown on how to tell whether your pigs are happy!
Signs A Pig Is Happy #1: Grunting
Pigs grunt to communicate a wide range of emotions and expressions, and one of the emotions conveyed through grunting is happiness and contentment. How do you know if your pig’s grunting means they are happy?
A good rule of thumb is the softer the grunt, the more content they are. If your pig is softly, quietly grunting in a rhythmic way, this usually indicates that he is happy. If your pig is grunting at a moderate volume, this may mean he is trying to get your attention. If he is grunting loudly, he may be agitated. The volume of the grunt can tell you a lot.
You will also want to look at what else is going on, and what other signs your pig is putting forth. If you are approaching the pen and your pig walks up to you with a soft grunt, she is probably happy to see you. If she is running away from you while grunting, or if she is confronting another pig and grunting, she may be expressing aggravation or frustration. You can learn a lot about a pig’s grunts, and other vocalizations, by using the context of what is going on around your pig.
You may be reading this article is you’re looking to get a few pigs. One thing you need to know before getting pigs is how to deal with their odors. To learn more, visit my article Do Pigs Smell Bad? Pig Odor Guide.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #2: Panting
Because pigs cannot sweat, you might see them panting to dissipate heat – this is a sign that your pig needs cool water and shade. But panting can also indicate happiness in pigs, and if there are no other signs (or no obvious causes) of heat stress, your pig may be panting out of contentment.
As explained earlier, the context around what is happening with your pig will tell you a lot about what the panting will indicate. If she is exposing her belly to you for a rub while softly panting, you would be correct to assume she is happy to see you. If she is panting and alone or seems fearful, she may be in pain or in fear.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #3: Soft Braying
A pig’s braying can sound somewhat like a donkey’s braying – but much softer and more muted, almost like he is braying under his breath or while murmuring. This is not as common, and not every pig will bray, but this braying can also be a sign of contentment. When your pig does bray, it will be a quiet, rhythmic sound.
If your pig is the braying kind, you may hear this soft sound while you are heading out to the pen or while you are giving your pig a scratch.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #4: Squeals
When you hear a pig squealing, it is usually safe to assume the pig isn’t happy or is scared. Piglets will squeal when they are picked up and when they are competing with their litter-mates. Older pigs will squeal when they are frightened by something, or when they are trying to get away from someone. A pig squeal is usually a sign of agitation in pigs.
However there is another kind of pig squeal – a squeal of excitement. Because pigs are highly food-motivated, you may hear your pig squeal with excitement when you fill the food trough, or when you come out with a treat. Your pig may also squeal with excitement if he sees you approaching and knows that you usually carry a treat with you. Pigs are incredibly intelligent, and they have long memories. And nothing excites them more than food.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #5: Barking
The last vocalization we will discuss when it comes to indicating happiness is the pig bark. Pigs may bark for a number of reasons, many of them to indicate something negative. Pigs may bark to warn others of danger, they may bark when they are alarmed or surprised, and sows may bark at others to warn them away from their piglets.
If your pig is barking while she is running around with other pigs, though, she is probably just happy and excited. Pigs, being highly intelligent animals, love to play. When they are playing with one another – chasing one another, “zooming”, rolling around – they will often bark out of happiness. This is similar to how a human will laugh while having fun.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #6: Wagging Tail
Pigs are not unlike dogs in that they use their tails to communicate. And a wagging tail means the same to a pig as it does to a dog. Pig tails are adorable – they are thin, wispy, and droop down behind a pig’s backside. When you approach your pig and this pig tail starts swishing side to side, you can assume that she is happy to see you. You might also see a line of wagging pig tails at the feeding trough – nothing makes a pig happier than dinner time.
Signs A Pig Is Happy #7: Playfulness
Pigs are considered the 4th most intelligent animal in the world, aside from humans. One of the indicators of intelligence among animals is playfulness, and pigs are definitely playful. While all baby animals like to play with one another, even adult pigs like to play. They play with toys, they chase one another, they roll around – pigs use play as a boredom buster and as a means of bonding with other pigs (and their humans).
You can assume that a playful pig is a happy pig. If your pig is regularly playful with others, or with her favorite toy in the pasture, you can rest assured that your pig is content. If your normally playful pig stops playing for an extended period of time, you will want to investigate further to see if there are any signs of illness or depression.
Pigs are known to have a hard time getting along with other animals. This can make it hard to create co-existing spaces for them and other livestock. One animal pigs can live with however are chickens! To learn more, visit my article Can Pigs and Chickens Live Together?
Signs A Pig Is Happy #8: Kisses And Cuddles
Pigs are affectionate animals, and they show that affection by giving kisses and by cuddling. They will kiss and cuddle one another, and they will even kiss and cuddle you if you have a safe, trusting relationship with your pig (usually more common with pet pigs as opposed to pigs raised for meat – after all, would you find it easy to butcher a pig that greets you with kisses?).
What does this look like? Pig kisses are not licks, but rather a “pressing” of the snout against you. This may feel like a nudge, but the snout will press into you a bit further and may linger. It will be clear that they are not just smelling you or greeting you, but actually showing you affection. A cuddle will be just that – your pig may press up against you and even lie down and roll over against you. Pigs cuddle with one another when they sleep, and they cuddle with their humans if they consider them one of the herd.
What Makes A Pig Happy?
Want to see more signs of happiness from your pigs? Aside from the necessities – shelter, regular feedings, safety, and a herd to commune with – there are a few other things that you can do to increase your pig’s happiness.
Pigs get bored easily and need an environment that is stimulating. You can add toys to your pig’s pasture, including balls, play tunnels, and ropes (so long as they cannot get caught or tangled in them). Balls that your pigs may enjoy include bowling balls, basketballs, and soccer balls. Interestingly, pigs also enjoy music. Research has shown that if given a choice between a barn with music and a barn without music, pigs show a preference for the barns that are playing music.
A Happy Pig Is Better For Your Pig And For You
Regardless of whether your pigs are pets or destined for the butcher, having a happy pig will benefit both your animal and you. If you are raising pigs for meat, happy pigs will be less stressed, and healthier. They will produce better meat, and the sows will have an easier time with their pregnancies. Whether you are looking at a profitable business model or a long-term companion, you want your pigs to be happy.
If your pigs are happy when you’re around, this is a good indication that they are fond of you. Pigs can show affection in numerous ways to both other pigs and their handlers. To learn more about how pigs show affection, visit my article Pig Affection: 10 Clear Ways Pigs Show Affection.