Yes, Pigs Can Play Video Games!

Astonishing researchers, pigs play with their snouts and win.

A cute micro pig wearing glasses looks very intelligent!

(Tsekhmister / Shutterstock.com)

Pigs already have a reputation for being smart, but they are even more intelligent than previously thought. Animal lovers are aware of this, with many opting to own a miniature breed known as the pot-bellied pig. 

These popular and trendy pets are entertaining, social, and affectionate. They are also highly intelligent, devoted, and curious, as shown in a recent study where pigs were taught to use a joystick and play a video game. 

This mental sophistication is great news for animal lovers whose aim is to spread more compassion for all living things. After observing how the pigs enjoyed playing, it seems to be great news for pigs as well!

Domestic pigs have already demonstrated a high level of intelligence in research over the years. Pigs have spatial learning abilities and can discriminate between brightness of color, as well as shape and size, according to the study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Pigs can complete multiple choice puzzles, respond to spoken commands, gestures, and are able to discriminate tone as well as use mirror images to locate food that is hidden. In short, pigs are smart!

Researchers used 2-year old Panepinto micro pigs called Ebony and Ivory, as well as Hamlet and Omelet, 3-month-old Yorkshire pigs. Training took place five days a week over 12 weeks.

They first taught the pigs how to manipulate a joystick with their snouts, teaching them the command, “Joystick.” Next, on the command “Watch the screen,” they learned how to watch targets on a monitor. Of course, rewards were given to the enthusiastic participants for winning a game level.

During the experiment, all pigs performed well and as they became more successful, the level of difficulty increased, just like in human video games! At first, the pigs had to hit a three-walled target which was then reduced to two walls and then one wall.

All pigs did well with the three-walled targets, however, the tiny Panepinto pigs performed better on the more difficult levels. One disadvantage for the Yorkshire pigs is that they simply grew so large, they could no longer fit in their test pens and could not stand long enough to finish the sessions. After a few months, Omelet and Hamlet were removed from the experiment.

As an interesting side note, the pigs even continued to play when the treat dispenser broke, according to the BBC. All they really needed were a few words of encouragement from the trainers and the pigs continued to play. This provided insight into how strongly pigs bond with people.

Dr. Candace Croney, lead author of the study, told the BBC, “This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them.”

Overall, researchers were amazed by the results. They concluded that the pigs’ actions were deliberate, and not random. This led them to conclude that all of the trained pigs were able to successfully learn these new, complex tasks.

Croney told CNN she is hopeful this study will motivate others to further research pigs’ cognitive abilities. She said, “It would be nice for people to realize how unique pigs are, and how much more mentally sophisticated they may be than we previously recognized.”

The team hopes this type of research will show people how they can enrich the lives of animals. The depth of the social bonds these pigs made with humans, coupled with their cognitive abilities, has the power to raise people’s awareness about this farm animal. This study may inspire other researchers to implement touch screens and computer-interfaced technology to further study animal intelligence. As for pigs, they should strut proudly with snouts raised in the air for displaying such acumen.

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