Are pigs smart, and if so, how smart? This is a question often asked by the general public and knowing more about animal cognition also helps us understand how best to manage animals in our care. In order to help answer this question, Becky, Richard and Chris from Oxford Scientific films spent the day with us at the University of Leeds farm last Tuesday (17th of July) filming pigs. Becky and the team were keen to show off the range of cognitive abilities pigs possess and the pigs, it turns out, were keen to show off their skills!
We started the day off by filming the problem-solving abilities of pigs, which showcased their flexible behaviour and quick learning skills. We had an array of 3 puzzle boxes that opened in various different ways. Our first volunteer pig had never seen the puzzles before the day of filming (very brave on our behalf!), but she quickly figured out how to open all three boxes, and the film crew were very impressed!
Then it was onto the next task, which demonstrated spatial problem solving. In this “detour task”, the animal has to figure out how to get to a visible reward by initially walking away from the reward and around a detour to access it. This proved no problem for our second willing volunteer and the film crew got some great footage of her figuring out the problem.
Finally, it was onto the pointing task. Here we were aiming to show how pigs can use human-given cues to access a hidden food reward. We got some great shots of the pigs following the pointing gesture to the bowl in which the food was hidden. After the long days’ filming, the pigs headed off for a well-deserved mud bath (see photo below!) while the film crew wrapped up.
Lisa, Annika, Emily and I thoroughly enjoyed our day outside in the sun filming with the pigs and we are looking forward to seeing the results on TV next year. We don’t know the screening date yet but watch this space for more information!
Some of our soon-to-be TV stars!
At the beginning of July the STRAYS team returned to Pescara, Abruzzo (Italy) to continue the long-term mark-recapture study of the local free-roaming dog population. This is the second of five data collections which will take place over a one year period in this area. Many of the dogs sighted during the first survey in April were sighted again (including the sleepy dog photographed in an earlier blog post). They were easily recognised, despite some shedding off their coats to deal with the warmer temperatures at this time of year. This is a photographic mark-recapture study, meaning that all dogs observed are catalogued so we can track their presence/absence in future studies. Using mathematical formula, this method allows us to estimate how many dogs live in this area and how many dogs enter/leave during the one year study.
The STRAYS team have now arrived in Lviv and are looking forward to seeing if the same individuals are sighted in the study areas here again!