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July 25, 2013

How Smart Is A Pig?

Animal Intelligence

Depending on which list you look at, the order of intelligence for the different species usually looks something like this:
1. human
2. ape
3. dolphin
4. pig
5. elephant
6. octopus
7. dog
8. crow

Most scientists agree on the first two, though I personally have doubts about the number one ranking at times. Disparity on the lists doesn’t normally show up until number three. This list ranks pigs third, right after chimpanzees and ahead of dolphins. I’ve seen a lot of lists and regardless of where pigs rank, the one constant is that pigs are always in the top ten. “How smart is a pig” is not a question I needed to ask…

This Is Old News To Us

My wife started rescuing pigs 20 years ago, and while at first I was appalled, I have grown to love the pigs, and even admire them for their spirit and intelligence. One of the first things I learned is that pigs will do damn near anything for food, and they seem to be particularly fond of grapes. Before we got our land for the sanctuary, we house-trained our first pig, Shinobi, in three days using grapes, but it took several weeks to train the dogs, and I think some of them are still learning.

My wife is pretty good at dealing with animals…okay, she’s great at dealing with animals, and all of them look to her as their best friend. All except our wild boar, Dennis (sometimes called The Magnificent). I saved Dennis when he was a baby and he has been mine ever since. My wife often teases me about how the animals listen to her and not me, so to get even with my wife for her many talents I decided to teach Dennis a trick, just to show her I could do it.

The Secret Is Using Grapes

I knew Dennis would do almost anything for grapes, so I decided to teach him something difficult, something to impress my wife. There is a gate between the back section of our property where several of the wild pigs live, and the section where we keep Dennis. Every day, after feeding the wild bunch as we call the back ones, I have to undo the latch on the gate and then pull it open to get in to feed Dennis. It’s a pain in the ass because I’m carrying a large pail of food and it takes two hands to unlatch and open the gate. I decided to teach Dennis to open the gate.

Pigs Can Learn Anything

I knew that Dennis was smart, and I set out to teach him to earn his food. For five days, I would walk up, pull the latch open and tell Dennis, “Open the gate.”

Being impatient, he would push on the gate, and, because the latch was up, it would open. I rewarded him with a few grapes. By day five, he was ready for me and pushed open the gate as soon as I flipped the latch. Here’s the video:

I was ecstatic, and boasted about it to my wife that night, and for several nights after that. About a week later, while I was working, she came to get me.
“Dennis is in the back,” she said, “and he’s terrifying the other pigs.”

“How the hell did he get out?” I asked. “Did you leave the gate open?”

“I haven’t even been back there,” she said, but I looked at her with a suspicious glance.
By the time I got back there, Dennis had the wild bunch scattered and he was busy rooting in his new territory. I coaxed him into his pen—using a few grapes—and secured the gate. I couldn’t figure out how Dennis got out, and secretly suspected my wife might have had something to do with it.

The next day was a repeat, but this time Dennis had chased the other pigs all the way across the property. Once again, I lured him back with grapes, and locked the gate. I wanted to blame my wife, but she had been with me, so I knew she didn’t do it.

For three more days, we had the same thing happen, and each time, Dennis was lured back. Finally, I had to take extreme measures and use rope and a second latch to secure the gate.

Grapes Of Wrath

That night, as we ate dinner, I said to my wife, “Isn’t this a bitch? I teach that damn pig to open the gate by giving him grapes, and then I have to give him grapes to come back in.” I sipped my coffee, looked at her and said, “The thing I can’t figure out is how the hell he’s getting the gate open by himself.”

My smart-ass wife said, “Maybe if you give him some grapes he’ll tell you.”

Bottom Line

Don’t teach a pig something you don’t want them to do.

Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of:
No Mistakes Resumes
Murder Takes Time
Murder Has Consequences
A Bullet For Carlos
Finding Family
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

8 Responses to “How Smart Is A Pig?”

  1. Another great story………..My Mom was given the job as a child to care for the “one extra piglet” that did not have a tit to eat from. So her job was to feed it and care for it. She remark so often about how smart this pig was way beyond the many dogs in the yard. What has me curious is how you did not connect the dot’s……Dennis was taught to open the gate!!!? No further instructions were given to him……….how have you stopped him from opening the gate without you? I guess you need a secret lock now!!


  2. JJoyia: thanks for stopping by. And yes, I messed up. Now I have two locks to open when I go to feed Dennis. I just hope he doesn’t figure that one out.
    Giacomo Giammatteo recently posted..A Lesson From Coffee DogMy Profile

  3. Joyia,

    I think there’s a latch that has to be opened first, then you can lift the gate. I think Giacomo may have underestimated “The Magnificent” and thought he needed him to release the latch first.


    PS – Those darned pigs WILL find a way to outsmart you. I’ve only fed them a few times myself, but when I did, they had some kind of trick up their sleeve.

    One time one of them got behind me and head-butted the back of my knees (not hard, just enough for my legs to buckle so I lost balance and spilled the food I had in the bowls), which they swiftly scooped up. (Apparently, I wasn’t feeding them fast enough).

    Meanwhile, the pigs that couldn’t get in on the feeding frenzy from the spilled food snuck outside of the gate while I was distracted (no intention of actually running away…they just stood there staring at me). They knew I’d had to bribe them with food to get back in the pen.

    All of that went down in a matter of seconds. It was like they had it planned.
    Aliza Giammatteo recently posted..“Ancestry Angels” You Never Knew You HadMy Profile

  4. You’re right, Aliza. They’ll find ways to trick you every time.
    Giacomo Giammatteo recently posted..I’m A Damn SissyMy Profile

  5. 😀 I knew how this story was going to end the moment you said you taught Dennis to open the gate.

    Honestly, Jim. I thought you were smarter than that.
    Maria Zannini recently posted..Bad Foot TankMy Profile

  6. Maria, apparently it’s Dennis who’s the smart one. I’m sure you’re familiar with farm-gate latches—I still don’t know how he’s getting it open.
    Giacomo Giammatteo recently posted..Whats Rong Wit a Few Misteaks?My Profile

  7. Thank you for my morning chuckle. Great story!! ^5 to the Mrs.!!!
    Cheryl “Mash” recently posted..Partners In Crime Tours Presents: Guest Author MERRY JONES Book Blast & giveawayMy Profile

  8. Hi, Cheryl: Yes, I never get one over on Mikki. Or Dennis, it seems.
    Giacomo Giammatteo recently posted..I’m A Damn SissyMy Profile

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