Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Clever little piggies communicate clearly using different grunts

The Sun, March 9, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

Print Article

Researchers have decoded pig grunts and matched them to emotions including happiness, fear, stress and excitement. Pictured is Maverick Clark from Bundaberg with Chunky the piglet. Picture: Adam Head media_cameraResearchers have decoded pig grunts and matched them to emotions including happiness, fear, stress and excitement. Pictured is Maverick Clark from Bundaberg with Chunky the piglet. Picture: Adam Head

animals

Reading level: green

Scientists say they have figured out the language of pigs — and the porkers don’t mince their words.

Researchers studied recordings of more than 7000 grunts to work out what they meant.

They can match each sound to emotions, such as being happy, excited, scared or stressed.

It is hoped the method can be turned into an app for farmers and owners to recognise how a pig feels.

Cute Little Pink Piglet media_cameraPigs are highly intelligent animals with complex emotions. Picture: iStock

Pigs are highly intelligent animals, with complex emotions, and are on par with dogs.

The researchers recorded the pig sounds in various situations, such as being reunited with family, piglets suckling* from mothers, fights between young and playing with toys.

Using the recordings, as well as monitoring the creatures’ behaviour and heart rate, the international team designed a computer algorithm* to decode* each action.

Pork Producers: Robert and Aristi Furmanczyk media_cameraResearchers found clear differences in pig sounds when the pigs were in positive and negative situations. Picture: Zoe Phillips

Short grunts signified happiness, while lots of vocalisations* showed they were scared or upset — such as when they were in an abattoir.

“There are clear differences in pig calls when we look at positive and negative situations,” said University of Copenhagen associate professor Dr Elodie Briefer. “By training an algorithm to recognise these sounds, we can classify 92 per cent of the calls to the correct emotion.”

This article originally appeared in The Sun and is reproduced here with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • suckling: feeding babies and young animals from the udder or breast
  • algorithm: a specific and logical procedure producing answers to problems
  • decode: discover the meaning of something, unravel, decipher, translate
  • vocalisations: sounds produced by voice
  • abattoir: facility where animals are killed to provide meat products

EXTRA READING

Following a funnel-web’s footsteps

Apes mind their manners with each other

Teaching honeyeaters to sing the right song

Sydney’s clever cockatoos learn to open bin lids

QUICK QUIZ

  1. How many grunts did researchers study?
  2. What are four emotions that can be matched to different sounds?
  3. What would an app allow pig farmers to do?
  4. Pigs are on par with what other animal in terms of intelligence and emotional range?
  5. As well as grunts, what other two measures did researchers use to monitor the pigs?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Pig fight!
Write a script or a story about an argument between two pigs in a farmyard.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Why do you think that this kind of research is important? How do you think the results of the research can be useful? Write paragraphs explaining your ideas.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the story – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in animals