Sow Smart, So Hungry


blog post photo
When I was about thirteen years old, my brother brought a piglet home from college. A runt rescue from an Indiana farm, we were smitten with her from first oink. But this little house piggy gained a pound a day and grew up to be quite the porker.

Right from the get go, my dad wanted her out of the house. But all the kids teamed up with mom on a mission to save our pet pig – named Ellie – from ham heaven.

blog post photo

We made Ellie a little home in our dinette next to the kitchen. We taught her to use the litter box. We gave her baths and let her nap in front of the hot air vent.

blog post photo

blog post photo
We fed her Frosted mini wheats. She bonded with our golden retriever. And, in a last minute effort to challenge our father’s anti-Ellie attitude, we hung signs reading “SOME PIG” on the wall above our sow’s bed. The local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, even did a story on Ellie.

blog post photo

But soon Ellie grew to be a 180 pound house pet. And with each passing day, her insatiable hunger led to more aggressive, pushy behaviors in her constant desire for a meal. Ellie was a smart sow – she even figured out how to open the fridge by herself. Before long, the family was unanimous that a massive hog in a house in the ‘burbs wasn’t such a good idea after all, and Ellie retired on a farm in rural Ohio.

blog post photo

blog post photo
There are about a billion pigs on the planet living on every continent except for Antarctica. They have been around since before the Ice Age. And, surprisingly, pigs are human cousins ­– body doubles in some ways, with organs of similar size and comparable brains and skin.

And pigs are incredibly intelligent – with food as a motivator, researchers have taught pigs to use joysticks with their snouts and play an abstract computer game. Pigs have been known to complete tasks faster than dogs, and even some chimpanzees.

Join National Geographic scientists as they explore the intelligence of pigs at the farm and in the forest on Hog Genius this Wednesday, April 14 at 10P et/pt.

Comments

  1. gstovall
    April 12, 2010, 7:32 pm

    Who knew pigs were so smart? I look forward to the show.