RSPCA Shop Next Gen Education
Colour mode

Pig welfare

There are many ways of housing and raising pigs, including indoor and outdoor systems. Both can give pigs good living conditions, but some farming methods have ignored their needs. 

Understanding pig behaviour

Pigs are fascinating creatures with important behavioural and physical needs. They are inquisitive animals and have complex needs that should be met by their environment on a farm. Here are some interesting facts about pigs:

  • Pigs are highly intelligent, inquisitive, adaptable, social animals that learn quickly. In many learning tests they can out-perform dogs!      
  • Pigs forage for food - given the opportunity, they eat a wide range of vegetables and animal products, including carrion (dead animals).      
  • Pigs mainly use their good senses of smell and hearing to explore their environment, relying less on eyesight.     
  • Pigs are expressive animals and can produce a wide range of different calls/vocalisations.
  • Their tails can often tell you about their mood - happy pigs often have curly tails whereas stressed pigs may tuck their tails between their legs.     
  • In cold weather pigs often huddle to keep warm, while in warm weather they wallow in water and mud to keep cool.
  • Pigs are sensitive to extremes of climate as they have no sweat glands (except for on the tip of their snout) and no thick hair cover, relying on fat for insulation.
  • Pigs prefer to live in stable families or small groups - they can be aggressive to each other if unfamiliar animals are mixed. Boars are often solitary. 
  • Pigs are clean animals - if they're given appropriate housing, they will use one particular area for dunging, keeping their lying/sleeping area clean.
  • Shortly before giving birth sows develop a strong desire to build a nest from materials such as straw or twigs.

Find out how you can help improve the welfare of pigs.

Find out more