Press Release

Pig Cognition and Behavior Compares Favorably to Dogs and Primates

Press Release

Pig Cognition and Behavior Compares Favorably to Dogs and Primates

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Peer-Reviewed Scientific Article Concludes that Pigs Are Behaviorally, Cognitively and Emotionally Complex Individuals

New York, NY – According to a new paper published today in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs perform as well or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees, our closest human relatives, in addition to other primates.

The article, written by neuroscientist Dr. Lori Marino and Emory University Prof. Christina M. Colvin, reviews pigs’ full range of abilities by detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas examined by the article include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.

With intriguing examples based on a review of the complete scientific literature to date, Dr. Marino and Prof. Colvin conclude that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.”

For example, pigs:

  • have excellent long-term memories;

  • are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of desired objects;

  • can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects;

  • love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals;

  • live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another;

  • cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as perspective-taking and tactical deception;

  • can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees;

  • can use a mirror to find hidden food;

  • exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual.

Dr. Marino explains that “We have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans. There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them.”

Dr. Marino is the executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy and provided the scientific support for the lawsuits of the Nonhuman Rights Project regarding recognition of chimpanzees as “legal persons”. In the blockbuster documentary Blackfish, Dr. Marino explains the neural underpinnings of cetacean intelligence and why orcas and other cetaceans cannot thrive in captivity.

This is the second paper produced with grant money from Farm Sanctuary’s The Someone Project, an endeavor aimed at raising the public’s understanding of farm animal cognition and behavior. The first paper focused on the cognitive and behavioral complexities of fish and generated international attention.

About Farm Sanctuary

Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary works to change how our society views and treats farm animals through rescue, education and advocacy. The organization provides lifelong care for animals rescued from abuse at sanctuary locations in New York and California; promotes compassionate vegan living; and advocates legal and policy reforms. To learn more about Farm Sanctuary, visit