Pig Facts: Sense of Smell | Pet Pig World (2023)

Pigs can be like humans in a lot of ways, but their sense of smell far exceeds that of a human’s.

Pigs have a highly advanced sense of smell. In fact, aside from helping them search for food, their sense of smell is something pigs can use to send a message and communicate with other pigs.

As you go through this article, you’ll see how fascinating a pig’s olfactory sense really is, and how this sense works with a pig’s other senses.

How Advanced is a Pig’s Sense of Smell?

Domestic pigs use their sense of smell for a number of different purposes. It’s not just for looking for food lying around. They use it in looking for a mate, and they use it to assess their surroundings.

It is interesting to note that pigs have 9 different glands that allow it to to recognize a wide variety of odors — anal, buccal, digital, Harderian, mental, preorbital, preputial, salivary and vulvar. Pigs are also on the list of animals with the most impressive olfactory receptor repertoire. They have a total of 1,113 receptor genes, all of the functioning well. They also have 188 pseudogenes.

Notice a pig’s rough, leathery snout? That’s where a pig’s nostrils are. It may seem rough and tough, but it’s definitely sensitive to touch.

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Pigs are natural foragers, so it’s common for them to root through soil, foliage, roots and the like. At the tip of its snout is a big cartilage connected to muscles. This makes their snout flexible enough to root around and strong enough to make it through rough patches of land.

Some argue that it’s not really about a pig’s strong sense of smell. They say that it’s more of the pig’s strong snout that allows it to dig around and look for food.

But then, how does it know where to dig? That’s the pig’s sense of smell working.

A pig roots where it can potentially find food because of two reasons — it remembers that spot as a place where it found food before (yes, a pig’s memory is just as impressive as its sense of smell), or it smells potential in that exact spot.

Not sure if this is accurate? Here’s a fun activity you can prepare for your pig.

Scatter some of your pig’s favorite treats around the yard. While you should leave some out in the open, hide the other pieces. You can put some treats underneath overturned buckets, or underneath their rooting box. Watch as your pigs go around, looking for the treats.

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Scavenger hunts like this show you how keen your pig’s sense of smell really is, and it gives them something to keep themselves busy with.

Yes, you can keep your pigs busy by giving them different activities that could stimulate their brains and give them an outlet for all their energy! Read this article to find out about other activities your pigs will enjoy.

What Other Senses Do Pigs Rely On?

As amazing as pigs’ noses are, of course they can’t rely on this alone. Just like humans, all their other senses help them go through daily routines and activities.

One sense that pigs use that’s just as advanced as their sense of smell is their sense of hearing.

Remember that pigs are natural preys. Out in the wild, they have a number of predators who would grab the opportunity to snatch them up and eat them. This is why they have developed a very keen sense of hearing. This allows them to hear predators that are possibly coming their way.

Pigs also make a series of grunts, snorts and other similar sounds to communicate with other pigs. They listen to the smallest variations in sound to determine what other pigs around them are saying.

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This is also why pigs become easily stressed over loud and abrupt noises. Slamming of doors and loud voices, for example, can easily cause a pig to be traumatized and shy away from the people causing the noise.

This also explains their behavior when being led to slaughter. They say pigs don’t exactly become agitated before slaughter because of their fear or intuition. It’s more about the sounds they hear before it happens.

Think about the setup before a pig is led to slaughter. There are usually a number of other pigs around it, squealing their hearts out. Add to that the sound of clanging metals and humans telling them what to do (possibly in very loud voices), and you have a mix that will pull your pig’s stress levels up a notch.

When caring for a pig in your home, make sure you place it in an area where there isn’t a lot of noise. Make sure also that when you talk to it, you speak in hushed, gentle tones. This will make the pig warm up to you easily, especially if it’s a fairly new member of your household.

Even a single instance of you raising your voice can make the pig associate you with trauma, and will cause it to be afraid of you. So even if it displays a behavior that you do not like, don’t scream at it. Talk to it in a stern voice when you say no, but never shout.

If you have noisy animals at home (like a dog that wouldn’t stop barking, fore example), make sure you find ways to keep it away from where your pig stays most of the time.

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Is a Pig’s Sense of Sight Just as Advanced?

The pig’s sense of smell and hearing may be impressive, but its sense of sight is far from excellent. Its eyesight is actually so poor, that its vision is limited to a short range.

Pigs are also colorblind to some degree. Although some think that this means they can only see in grayscale, it is believed that they still have some sensitivities to frequencies in green and blue. This means that they probably have at least some semblance of color in their vision.

Their poor vision also makes them blind at ground level to some extent. This is why you’ll notice them stopping every so often as they walk around. Every time they see shadows in their way, they confuse this for actual physical barriers blocking their path.

This is probably why pigs may sometimes prefer well-lit areas over dimly-lit ones. The brighter it is in the rooms, the less shadows they see as well.

Other Pig Facts You Should Know

Now that you know how amazing a pig’s sense of smell is, here are other interesting facts you should know about them:

  • Pigs’ mothers sing them to sleep. They usually do this while they’re nursing. And interestingly enough, piglets can actually recognize their mother’s voices and would know if their mothers are calling them.
  • Despite our constant use of the expression “sweating like a pig”, pigs actually don’t sweat. They only have very few sweat glands, most of which aren’t even working properly. Because they have no sweat to cool their skin off, they dip in mud instead.
  • Pigs love snuggling against each other. In fact, you’ll often see pigs sleeping nose to nose. They are social creatures and love the company of other pigs.
  • Experts have identified over 20 different noises that pigs make to communicate with each other. Although all we hear is grunting, the different tones actually have different meanings for them.
  • Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, and are also smarter than a 3-year old kid. They can solve puzzles in the same capacity as primates.
  • Pigs have a great memory and a great sense of direction. Because of these two traits, they are capable of finding their way home even if they’re far away from home.
  • Although you can see 4 toes on each of their hooves, a pig only uses two toes when they walk.
  • Pigs are omnivores and can eat plants and meat. However, it is often not advisable to feed them meat because of the hue risk of disease. In fact, feeding meat to pigs is illegal in a lot of countries, cities and localities.
  • If kept in a healthy environment, pigs can actually live until they’re 20 or beyond. However, for pigs that are out in the wild and are exposed to harsh settings, their life expectancy is pulled down to an average of 5 years.
  • Pigs may have the capacity to grow huge, but for their size, they have considerably small lungs. They are also prone to respiratory diseases that sometimes cause death, like pneumonia.

Related Questions

Do pigs remember their owners?

Pigs have excellent memories and can remember their owners, handlers, and other people they often come into contact with. They can also remember their mother’s voice, as well as other pigs that they spent time with before.

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Are pigs clean or dirty?

Pigs are actually among the cleanest animals around despite what we’ve believed our entire lives. They hate it when there’s dirt around their sleeping and eating area. The only reason why pigs are believed to be dirty is because most pig farms are overcrowded and are not maintained properly. This is why pigs in these farms are often depressed and stressed all the time.

Can pigs look upwards?

Pigs are physically unable to crane their necks and lift their heads upwards. This makes it impossible for them to see the sky just by looking up. Technically, if they want to see the sky, they would have to lie down in an angle where their eyes can directly look up, or they would have to look at the sky’s reflection in a pool, pond, or anything similar.


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