Seven Amazing Facts About Pigs

Most of us know firsthand how intelligent and loving dogs and cats are, since we interact with them often. Not everyone has had the chance to hang out with pigs, and may not realize how similar they are to the animals we share our homes and hearts with. Here at Ahimsa Acres, pigs are among our best friends! We have 7 pigs living at our sanctuary, and every day we get to witness how interesting, clever, and affectionate they are.

Here are seven facts that may change your perception of pigs!

Rocky "the Miracle Pig" takes the stage in front of his brothers-from-other-species-mothers, Hawk and Cody.

Rocky "the Miracle Pig" takes the stage in front of his brothers-from-other-species-mothers, Hawk and Cody.

1. Pigs are Good Problem Solvers

Pigs are very clever and have the ability to solve complex problems. In fact, pigs are accepted as the second-smartest animal after humans; they are as smart as chimpanzees, or 3-year old children. Did you know a pig recognizes and responds to hearing her name?

Pigs have shown time and time again that they can navigate mazes and solve puzzles. This proves their ability to distinguish and categorize objects, for example, on the basis of color and shape. Pigs also have good memories, and solve problems using their knowledge of what happened in the past. Pigs have learned to play video games using joysticks and to set the temperature with a thermostat! 

2. Pigs are Talkative

Just like us human animals, pigs use their voices to communicate. As far as we know, they can make at least 20 distinct sounds. Each of these sounds is tied to situation and emotion. For example, pigs make short grunts when they feel excited. Other sounds in their repertoire include long grunting, squealing, screaming, and barking.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “when pigs fly,” but what about when they sing? Well male pigs, known as boars, already do! Boars sing a “courting song” to impress the ladies when they are ready to mate. 

3. Pigs are Social

Pigs are very social creatures and prefer to live in groups. A group of pigs, called a “drift,” “herd,” or “sounder,” is usually comprised of about 8 members. These groups are matriarchal, meaning they are centered around the mothers.

A group is normally made up of a few mothers and each of their babies. Pig mommas keep close watch over their young, taking turns watching the piglets of the sounder while other moms search for food. Male pigs, on the other hand, prefer to be independent and don’t normally identify with groups. (Except for our Apollo -- he absolutely LOVES his "babies," Paulie, Mickey, and Adrian!) 

Pigs are also social with other animals, too, including people. They remember individuals and, like many cats and dogs, show preference for those who they are already acquainted with. 

Mickey, Duke, Adrian, and Paulie cooling off together on a summer day.

Mickey, Duke, Adrian, and Paulie cooling off together on a summer day.

4. Pigs Like to Keep Busy

Like most people and other animals, pigs like to keep busy with activities. They get unhappy and sometimes lash out when bored (hey, me too). Pigs generally spend up to 10 hours each day foraging for food. They enjoy exploring their environment using both their color vision and keen sense of smell. When they cannot freely roam and forage, pigs like to play with a variety of toys, dig in straw, and chew corn cobs.

Considering how smart and playful pigs are, it is no surprise that they enjoy having lots to do! 

5. Pigs are Tidy

Many people think of pigs as dirty animals, but this is not at all true! Pigs are very clean animals and some people keep their piggy friends in the house just like cats or dogs. At as young as a few hours old, pigs know to separate where they go to the bathroom from their sleeping and eating spots.

So why do they like to roll in the mud? Unlike us, pigs do not sweat, so rolling in the mud helps them cool off. Think of the last time you stepped out of the shower and felt cold; this is the same cooling effect that pigs benefit from as the mud dries. The mud also protects their skin from burns when they are in the sun and from pesky flies. 

6. Pigs Have Amazing Noses

Pigs have pretty amazing noses that enable them to do many things. The way a pig uses her nose is similar to the way we use our hands.

Pigs are very skilled at digging in the dirt with their noses in search of roots and other edible goodies. This is appropriately called “rooting.” It is enabled by the large flexible disc of cartilage that makes up the tip of a pig’s nose.

Pigs’ noses are not only physically strong and agile, but their sense of smell is also extremely well developed. This is what enables them to find truffles buried deep underground. 

Duke enjoying a good scratch on a stump!

Duke enjoying a good scratch on a stump!

7. Pigs are Compassionate and Affectionate

Pigs love to be affectionate. They often rub noses with each other, they cuddle with other animals like cows and dogs, and they love to be petted. If you've visited the sanctuary, you know they go CRAZY for belly rubs!

As part of their social and intelligent nature, pigs also respond to what others are feeling. If they see someone sad or in pain, they show that they too are upset. This is not limited to other pigs; they have compassion for other animals, including us homo sapiens. Let’s reciprocate and show these amazing animals the same level of compassion! 

Interested in keeping pigs off your plate? Check out our recipes section for meatless meal inspiration.

Emersyn D. is a designer, musician, and vegan living in Philadelphia with her partner and their two dogs, Legs and Porkroll. In her free time she enjoys cooking, bodybuilding, and dreaming up her future tiny house. She also loves dad jokes. You can reach Emersyn at emersynx@gmail.com.

Thankful, Three Days Later

It's three days after Thanksgiving and as I'm sitting here, sleep-deprived with tears streaming down my cheeks (I'll explain...), I can't ignore the fact that despite the sadness I'm feeling right now, my heart is so full of thankfulness. 

On Tuesday, we, along with three other rescues, received several baby goats and lambs who were saved from a horrific fate at a sale barn. The babies were the worst of the worst -- the smallest; the sickest; the ones who needed us the most. As of tonight, 4 of the 11 animals from this rescue have passed on, despite the very best efforts to save them. We received 3 (2 newborn lambs and a goat kid) as part of the rescue, and so far, ours are hanging in there, but as we continue to receive daily (and sometimes hourly) updates about the state of the remaining babies with our sister rescues, our nervousness continues to grow, as animals this young and in this poor of state can go downhill very quickly.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of chaos and emotion. Our schedules have been turned upside-down to accommodate the babies' feeding schedule. Every 3-4 hours we're up, bottle-feeding them and wishing we could grow an extra hand or two to make the task a bit easier. Thanksgiving dinner with our family was cut short. Things that we planned on getting accomplished this weekend didn't happen. The only bathroom in our house is now the lamb and kid nursery and our washing machine is working overtime to keep up with all the dirty laundry they're making. Our focus has been 100% on these babies since they arrived. And I know the other organizations involved with this rescue have done the same. And that's why losses like the one I learned of a few hours ago are so hard to swallow. But, this is rescue. This is our new reality. This is why we continue to put everything on the line for the animals. The animals need us to be their voices -- to fight for them -- and as hard as it is for me to push on sometimes, I am thankful that I've found my purpose.

I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people that I know because of this work. That I've formed friendships with a small group of fellow rescuers who I can turn to for advice, who I can celebrate victories and mourn losses with. They get me. And I get them.

I'm thankful for the people who follow us along on our sanctuary's journey. They feel like family and their words mean more to me than they'll ever know.

I'm thankful for a husband who lets me be me, who has embraced all the craziness that is rescue even better than I have and who doesn't get angry at me when I agree to take another pig. Or three.

I'm thankful for a good job with an understanding boss and a generous time-off policy. I can't tell you the last time I used a sick day for myself, but I've lost track of how many I've had to use for an animal emergency.

I'm thankful that there were two more vegetarians at the Thanksgiving table this year because they've been touched by the animals at our sanctuary and came to the realization that they can't eat a being as wonderful as a chicken or a pig. 

I'm thankful for the challenges that I face each day and the constant opportunities to learn new things to make me a better rescuer. 

I am thankful for each and every animal who comes into my life. 

I am thankful that this is my life. 

Rocky: Four Months Later

July 9th, 2016 is a day that will remain emblazoned in our memories for eternity. It's the day that Rocky entered our lives.

In the four months since his rescue, we've learned more about pigs, about rescue and about life, than we'd ever imagined possible.

We received this photo along with an urgent plea for help from fellow rescuers, who pulled Rocky during a goat rescue. 

We received this photo along with an urgent plea for help from fellow rescuers, who pulled Rocky during a goat rescue. 

Because of Rocky, we quickly learned how to wrangle a squirmy, screeching piglet and take his temp without getting bitten. Or pooped on. 

Rocky's rescue opened our eyes to the really good side and the really bad side of animal rescue -- and to humanity, in general. It taught us to work on thickening our skin and to remember that there will always be naysayers and people who try to undo the good we're doing. But those people don't matter.

Most of all, though, Rocky taught us that life is truly a gift -- that tomorrow is never promised and that small victories matter. He taught us to trust our gut, since it's usually right, to think outside the box and to never give up hope, until there's no more hope left to lose.

At this moment, all hope seemed lost. I thought this would be the last (and only) photo of me and Rocky. 

At this moment, all hope seemed lost. I thought this would be the last (and only) photo of me and Rocky. 

Oh, and patience. Rocky definitely taught us a lot about patience. 

The moment I met Rocky, I knew there was something different about him. Each of the animals we take in are special, but there was something extra-special about Rocky. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time, but in hindsight, I think it was the many lessons Rocky's rescue would teach us that I sensed. 

During Rocky's recovery, his doctors warned us that he may have long-term effects from his conditions, but that truly, only time would tell. Patience. When he came home, he had some trouble with his front legs and we sought out the help of an animal physical therapist, who determined that because Rocky was down for so long as a baby, when essential growth and development happens, that his tendons were much shorter than normal. Again, we were told that "time" was the key. We helped Rocky strengthen his legs with special exercises, but his body needed time to fully heal and make up for the lost development during the first weeks of his life. All we wanted was for someone to tell us that Rocky would be perfectly okay. That for all he'd been though, he was going to make it just fine. But no one could. We had to wait it out. Our patience was being tested yet again. 

Today, Rocky's getting around just fine and he has a personality many times bigger than he is. He screams at the top of his lungs, gets a foamy mouth and does a very impressive "hangry dance" when he's ready to eat, and he melts into an adorable piggy puddle for belly rubs. He's smart and adorable and stubborn. So, so stubborn. Rocky does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants -- but really, can you blame him? He's been through the works in his short life -- if he's a little grumpy here and there, that's totally fine with us.

He proved me (and everyone else) wrong! And I'm so glad he did!

He proved me (and everyone else) wrong! And I'm so glad he did!

Rocky's still a baby and has a lot of growing left to do. If and how he will be affected long-term by his rough beginning is still a question no one can really answer. We will be patient and see how his story plays out. But one thing's for certain -- no matter what happens with Rocky, or what challenges we may face with him down the road -- we will know that we made the right decisions for him. We can see it in his eyes, every time we look at him, and we feel it in our hearts, whenever we are in his presence. He embodies everything that animal rescue is about -- giving it all, until you've got no more left to give because you know, in your heart, there's no other option -- and we are so, so grateful that Rocky came into our lives to show us that, first-hand.

People say that Rocky is so lucky to have landed with us -- but I'd say we're even luckier to be the ones who get to help him along on his journey.

Our miracle.

Our Rocky.

<3


We know that Rocky's changed many other lives besides just ours! We want to hear about how Rocky has impacted your life! Leave a comment and you could be featured in a future piece about Rocky's impact on the world.