Study Shows Pigs React to Music With Emotion

Pigs have feelings too!


Study, Calm, Music
A pig relaxes while listening to music.

(Nolte Lourens /

Gentle, harmonious music is calming, while upbeat pop uplifts. This is also true for pigs as well! A recent study in Nature shows that pigs react emotionally to music, great news for animal lovers and those promoting animal welfare. It is positive news for pigs too, as they display enjoyment listening to a good tune!

Biological responses between music and emotions
In the past, similar studies have shown a biological response between music and milk production in cows, according to the researchers. Other music studies focused on dogs, gorillas, and elephants, but no study has evaluated music and emotional responses in animals.

The team from the University of Calgary in Canada, chose pigs for this study. Pigs are extremely intelligent and social, and also face animal welfare challenges on farms, according to Science. To prepare for the research, animal welfare scientist Maria Camila Ceballos consulted with veterinarian and musician Berardo de Jesús Rodríguez.

Consonance versus dissonance
Rodríguez composed 16 pieces of music that featured wind instruments, strings, as well as percussion melodies. Each tune was either pleasantly consonant or uncomfortably dissonant. The difference between these two sounds can be identified on this YouTube video.

Using acoustic speakers, the team played music to litters of 10 to 12 pigs at a university pig farm. Each piece of music was played for three to five minutes with a break of three minutes between. The pigs were filmed listening to the music and were then scored on body language reactions.

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Although the researchers used 20 emotional parameters, the most basic ones were feelings of contentment and uneasiness. During the dissonant music, they were able to recognize stress and agitation in the pigs. And during the consonant music, the pigs showed positive emotions via posture, interaction, and demeanor.

Aiming to improve welfare of other animals
This study reinforces prior research on farm animals and strives to improve their conditions, according to Plant Based News. Ceballos hopes that researchers will soon be able to create music that improves the welfare of other stressed animals and induce calm.

“But it’s really interesting, because if it works, it would be the handiest and cheapest way to enrich their environment,” Ceballos told Science.

Results like this aim to improve animal treatment on factory farms and also enhance the understanding that pigs have feelings just like us!

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