Move over Chimpanzees...
New studies certain animals are more intelligent than previously thought
British newspaper Daily Mail has recently done some fascinating reporting on the potential intelligence of certain types of pigs. Several studies have indicated that the animals indeed may be much smarter and capable of much more complex tasks than was previously thought.
According to the article, researchers from Canada taught/trained four pigs (Yorkshire and Panepinto) to “play video games.” Specifically, they got the pigs to “manipulate a joystick” with their snouts, moving a cursor on a screen to reach one four targets. Supposedly, each pig “displayed some conceptual understanding of both the game and the connection between the movement of the joystick control and the cursor.” Incredible.
Candace Croney, the researcher behind the study and a professor at Perdue University, had this to say:
“It is no small feat for an animal to grasp the concept that the behavior they are performing is having an effect elsewhere. That pigs can do this to any degree should give us pause as to what else they are capable of learning and how such learning may impact them.”
The experiment was essentially two parts. First, they used treats to train the pigs, named Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony, and Ivory, to “manipulate” a joystick in front of a monitor, using their snouts. Next, the animals were taught to “play” a video game on the screen, where they had to move a cursor towards various “targets.”
The team also reported that “social contact” seemed to strongly influence the pigs’ performance in the game. Although “treats” were also used, only verbal encouragement seemed to help the animals during the most difficult levels of the game.
“When you look a pig in the eye, you can tell that there’s intelligence there,” says Willow Farm pig farmer Kate Farmer Kate Daniels. I personally have made that observation many times.
Another study, also reported on by The Daily Mail, was done by French ecologist Meredith Root-Bernstein, who confirmed that some pigs are capable of using hand tools as well. The pigs, specifically Visayan warty pigs, dig out shallow nests to prepare for the birth of piglets. They typically just used their snouts for this, but were observed using sticks and even kitchen spatulas for this when such tools were given to them.