Behavior of Mini-Pigs

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Laurie Hess, DVM

Mini-pigs that interact with and receive positive feedback from humans during the first two months of life are generally social and enjoy being with people. They are more trusting of people who are squatting rather than standing, and prefer to seek physical contact with people rather than to receive it.

Mini-pigs do not like to be restrained and will likely struggle and scream loudly when restraint is attempted. They often shy away from strangers, or from people wearing hats or gloves, and they typically express their moods - whether they are happy, angry, or aggressive - by wagging their tails. Pigs have a variety of vocalizations that are used to display joy, fear and/or territorial behavior.

Pigs are very social animals and tend to thrive when housed with other pigs of a similar size and age. A social hierarchy is usually established, with some being dominant and others submissive, and is generally related to body size and growth rate. Gender is a less important factor, with some females (sows) acting more aggressive than males (boars). Fighting among pigs housed together is not uncommon, especially if they are overcrowded or fed together.

"Pigs are very intelligent and need environmental enrichment..."

Mini-pigs typically follow a daily routine that involves eating, drinking, eliminating, socializing, sleeping, and digging. They are generally more active in the morning and evening and often sleep during the day. Indoor pigs sleep about 50% of the time. Pigs tend to be less active during the day and more active at night, especially during hot weather.

What kind of toys can I provide for my pig?

Pigs are very intelligent and need environmental enrichment to stay active, or they can become bored and destructive. Pigs generally prefer heavy, durable objects to push around, such as tires, cement blocks, large rocks, bales of hay, large piles of straw, and iron chains. They also like soft, chewy items such as leather and hemp rope. Despite their name, they prefer to play with clean objects over dirty ones. They love foraging for food within toys. A bowling ball stuffed with pig chow makes a great toy for a pet pig.

Painted objects that are coated with potentially toxic chemicals, as well as items made from fabric, wood, plastic, soft rubber, or string, should be avoided as they can be easily ingested and cause gastrointestinal obstruction.

Pet pigs not provided with appropriate environmental enrichment or early socialization may develop stereotypical behaviors, including pacing, staring, excessive drinking, hitting walls, drooling, rubbing on things excessively, and repeated licking or chewing on objects, especially metal and rope. These behaviors may be eliminated by providing proper environmental stimulation, including foraging toys, and by providing additional food. Allowing pigs to play in a secure outdoor environment is highly recommended. A fenced yard provides a safe place to play, preventing escape and allowing for grazing on natural grasses.

What is rooting?

Rooting is a natural behavior all pigs perform: digging in soil and chewing on grass. Ideally, pigs should be allowed to root outside in an untreated lawn. If they are not allowed access to an area for rooting, they may dig up floors, carpeting, or walls in your home. Indoor plants will become their next toy if your pig is cooped up inside for too long.

Pigs housed in apartments without access to a safe, outdoor space can be offered a small, heavy, plastic kiddie wading pool with the side cut out for a doorway, filled with rocks and shredded paper in which they can safely dig. Offering pigs hay or feeding them outside may reduce their desire to root, but most will continue this behavior.

What can cause aggressive behavior in pet pigs?

In addition to inter-pig aggression due to social hierarchy in multi-pig households, pet pigs can suddenly become aggressive in response to changes within a household. Changes could include a change in caretaker schedule, introduction of new pets and people, or discomfort from illness. Pigs may become aggressive to particular people, to all men, all women, or all children, and may try to attack even when unprovoked. If your pig displays this type of behavior, seek the help of a pig-savvy veterinarian immediately.

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