If you love cats, look no further to be amused and amazed. I invite you to dig out your roll of coloured tape, go mark out a square with it on your floor, and wait for your kitty to stroll by. Does your fur baby do this? It seems most pusses need no purrsuasion.
Squares of ribbon, paper, even shoes – the kitties will park in the middle without pro-cat-stination.
What pawsible reason can there be for this strange behaviour?
“We know that cats like safe spaces. It’s possible that the marking on the floor creates some illusion on the floor that doesn’t actually exist,” says certified cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado. “It might have enough similarity to a low-sided box that a lot of cats are attracted to it for safety.”
Certified cat behavior consultant Ingrid Johnson agrees, pointing out that cats have poor close-up vision, so they may well mistake the tape for a shallow box – and we all know how cats love boxes.
“Their vision is built for distance and speed, watching a mouse run across the field,” she says. “Close up they’re virtually blind 8 to 12 inches off their muzzle.”
Curiosity killed the cat
So the saying goes. And cats are certainly curious. Your puss may just be purrusing a new strange object on your floor.
Cats in circles
Circles, hexagons, heptagons – cats can’t get enough.
But if it’s just curiosity, why the sitting?
Mikel Delgado has the last word: “Maybe just chalk it up to cats being mysterious,” he says.
What you never knew you wanted to know about animals – but you really do
Did you know that –
Are champs at recognizing rumps? It’s not the face, but the butt they look at to tell one buddy from another – and they do it just as easily as humans distinguish faces. Bright colours, it seems, count for both species. In humans, females’ red lips are attractive to males, a fact well-known to lipstick manufacturers. No lipstick for chimp females though. It’s the red rump that’s the big turn-on in chimp society. The redder the better because when the rump blushes even deeper crimson the male knows his lady is ovulating and it’s now or never.
The Mysterious ‘Silkhenge Spider’
In the jungles of Peru and Ecuador, builds a very special protective playpen for its young? In spite of extensive publicity in the world of science, no-one yet knows what species this clever beast belongs to. Watch this video of spiderlets being born, and hear the scientists trying to unravel the mystery
Run fast? So fast they would win the race against that lightning-speedster Usain Bolt himself, no competition. Don’t be fooled by that large lumbering appearance. These beasts can run at 30mph, and that’s just when they’re cruising. If you put them under pressure or make them mad, who knows what their top speed might be? Never try to outrun a grizzly. If Usain couldn’t do it, you and I certainly can’t!
The female shark
Has learned to grow an extra-thick skin? And not because she gets insulted more than most. It’s just that during mating, her male counterpart has the unpleasant habit of biting her – hard. Those jaws are not a thing to be trifled with!
Are right-handed? At least we think so. Right-handed? With 8 legs, or is that arms? I reckon the Honduran curly hair tarantula deserves a prize for its name alone. And if not for its name, its size. It’s as big as a grapefruit. Eek. It seems more often than not, male curly-hairs choose to take a right turn rather than a left in a laboratory maze, when in either direction there’s the promise of their favourite food, cockroaches. Ditto in pursuit of females. The difference is statistically significant (ie. happens more often than if by chance). “Furthermore, the team observed that the male spiders prefer to use their right eyes and feet while moving.” Not so much right-handed, more right-footed then.
Whatever, there’s no call for alarm, arachnaphobes. It seems this species is pretty docile, unless you’re a cockroach that is. And isn’t he a magnificent beast?
Are a knockout? Literally. Two snail species of the genus Karaftchelix are said to be “unusually aggressive”. Can you even imagine an aggressive snail? A contradiction in terms, surely. But these ones are veritable Snail Samurai. While most snails in danger retreat into the safe haven of their shell, these two kinds are no shrinking violets. They use their shell not for retreat, but attack – as a weapon of war, swinging it vigorously and very effectively at their predator, the carabid beetle. See the warriors in battle here:
Egyptian fruit bats
Bicker? A lot. They row over food, feud over their favourite spots in the roost, and even have romantic tiffs. And the way they talk varies depending on the particular bat person they are addressing. No different from us then. Before this latest study, scientists thought all that noise was just saying ‘get the heck out of here’, or words to that effect. But after running 15,000 calls through a “machine learning algorithm” (don’t ask – I don’t know) the researchers discovered the squabbling was much more complex than you might expect. And they expect more intriguing discoveries from bat-speak yet to come.
Used to have a penis bone? Seriously. What is a penis bone? What’s it for, and how come we were so careless as to lose it? It’s scientific name is a baculum, and it’s an ‘extra-skeletal’ bone, which means it’s not attached to the rest of the skeleton, “but floats daintily at the end of the penis”. Again, eek. A variety of mammals have hung on to theirs but ours is not even vestigial like the appendix – it’s gone for good. The scientists have various colourful speculations as to its purpose. And also why our evolution alone among primates found no further use for one. As you may have suspected, it’s all about the mating game. Different species, different mating strategies. Some need’em, others don’t.
To find out more about how we lost the penis bone and see a photo, click here. More links to today’s animal craziness at the bottom of the page.
I hope you have enjoyed these fun facts. I actually put them together with another more serious purpose in mind. Shouldn’t we marvel at the infinitely fascinating, colourful, varied and complex life on this planet of ours, and do all that we can to keep it safe? Sadly, new species are being discovered that are already extinct. There is so much we don’t know. So much more to discover and wonder at. Let us treasure it at its true worth which is beyond price.
Please take a look at this list of simple eco-friendly things we can all do to make a difference:
No socks this year please Santa. But what is on your list? A ball of spit? A skewered frog or two? Or some silk-wrapped ‘pre-loved’ insect remains? No? Well, what about stolen goods then.
If you watched the last episode of Planet Earth II you can’t fail to have noticed sundry animals getting up to all kinds of skullduggery, not to mention some downright theft. Sneaky, opportunistic – or just clever? Well, one poor little guy living near a golf course in Australia wasn’t as clever as he thought, and his gift-giving went horribly wrong.
The scene opens with our hero – a bower bird – fussing over his art work in front of his bower, arranging and rearranging, intent on enticing a prospective mate – or two, or three…
For his colour scheme he choses white, enlivened with a splash of red here and there: a red plastic fork, a red bottle top, lengths of red string. Still he contemplates his beak-work with dissatisfaction.
Something is missing and he knows just what it is. His neighbour has hit the jackpot with the latest find for his own showpiece – a red plush heart the size of a child’s hand. It seems so improbable, but yes, really, a red plush heart. How did that get on the golf course? Whatever, no bower bird of the opposite sex is going to be able to resist that!
Envy is eating our guy up, but he knows all he has to do is loiter nonchalantly in a nearby tree and wait. His patience is rewarded – the possessor of The Heart flies off to find more objets d’art for his masterpiece. Our guy wastes no time. He swoops and carries off the prize. Back home he makes the wondrous heart the centrepiece of his display.
Soon his artistry (and thievery) bear results – a visitor arrives to inspect his creation.
Our little guy parades one cherished object after another before his guest, starting with the red plastic fork. But the visitor is not impressed. How about a length of red string then? Boy, this one is hard to please. There’s nothing for it but to offer up his pièce de resistance – The Red Heart. He hopes this will clinch the deal, and yes, finally, his gift is a winner. His visitor graciously accepts the proffered heart.
But oh no, now what’s happening?!? Our little guy has been duped. Far from falling for his charms, the prospective mate flies off with his most treasured (but stolen) possession. She is no lady, and not just because she’s a trickster and a thief – ‘she’ is in fact a juvenile male. Well all’s fair in love and war they say, and there surely is no honour among bower bird thieves.
I Made it Myself
A red plush heart as a gift to impress your lady is one thing. But how about a ball of spit? And not just any old ball of spit. The male scorpion fly (so called because his tail-end resembles a scorpion’s sting, actually his genitalia) offers his girl a ball a whole tenth of his body-weight in spit. That’s an impressive amount of spit. If the protein-rich saliva wins her over, she eats it, and the deal is sealed.
Still, a ball of spit has got to be better than a ball of something else, which is the dung beetle’s offering to his beloved!
Do I Look Stupid?
Dodgy doings and trickery are not exclusive to the bower bird. A certain S. American spider gift-wraps his prey in spider silk before offering it to his beloved. But who knows what’s really inside that silk parcel? This gent is prone to giving in to his greed and presenting his sweetheart with an offering that is, yes, beautifully wrapped. But when she tears off the layers in excitement, she discovers she’s been conned. All that’s inside is the evidence of his gluttony, the worthless remains of his prey. What a cheapskate. And no Mr. spider-guy, trying to claim it’s “pre-loved” simply will not cut it.
You’ll Want for Nothing, Darling
No such scamming for this pretty little songbird. His modus operandi is 100% above board. Everything he has on offer he puts on conspicuous display to catch the eye of passing females. But don’t be deceived by those cute looks, this little avian has a startlingly macabre side. His love gift is a well-stocked ‘larder’… of corpses. If you’re ever in Scandinavia and stumble across a spiky bush gruesomely adorned with the carcasses of insects, frogs, toads, fish, lizards, mice, voles, stoats, bats or maybe even other birds , all brutally skewered on its thorns, you’ll know ‘the butcher bird’ is not far away.
You may have noticed a common thread running through the antics of all our dudes so far, and it’s a three-letter word beginning with ‘s’. Those fellas without exception expect a full return on their gifts. But the critters up next have no such ulterior motives with their giving. A bunch of well-brought up crows in Washington State give gifts just to say ‘Thanks’.
Sparklies Are a Girl’s Best Friend
This murder of crows (that really is what seems a totally inappropriate collective noun for them) delivers all kinds of trinkets to Gabi, a young Seattle girl. Their offerings are invariably bright, shiny and small – small enough, naturally, to be carried in a crow’s beak.
Gabi had a habit of sharing her packed lunch with her feathered friends on her way to and from the school bus. Soon they were lining up on the fence waiting for her. So she began feeding them properly every day in her garden. It wasn’t long before she started to find little offerings left on the food trays – buttons, beads, bits of glass, earrings, paper clips, even a little silver ball.
One crow found the lens cap her mom had lost from her camera. He was seen dunking it in the bird bath as if to clean it before leaving it for her on one of the trays. To date she’s amassed quite a collection of little trinkets, and she treasures every one.
Stuff the ‘murder of crows’! Wouldn’t a much more fitting collective name for these clever, appreciative birds be ‘a courtesy of crows’?
The Gift that Says You Must Try Harder
Let experts disembarrass you though of the notion it’s “Thank you” your cat wishes to express when she drops her latest poor little victim on the carpet at your feet. Cat behaviorists say it’s the feline equivalent of a slap on the wrist, moggie’s way of venting her acute disappointment at your painful lack of hunting skills, and a much-needed lesson in how it’s done.
Cat behaviourists may think they’re doing us a favour with this unsolicited tidbit of information. But in this instance I reckon ignorance is bliss. Allow us to keep our happy little illusions. Forget the experts spoke. Of course our cats are saying “Thank you” and “I love you”. Aren’t they?
So, which animal is the bees’ knees, the cat’s pyjamas of gift-givers?
Just for their adorable good manners, the crows get my vote.
Compared with corpse larders, spit and dung though, socks may not be looking such a bad option after all!
At the very end of Planet Earth II, Sir David Attenborough says this:
“Surely it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to create a planet that’s not just for us but for all life on Earth“
Sir David’s impassioned plea for the planet is sobering. Let’s hope the movers and shakers of the world took note, and that it prompts the rest of us as individuals to shoulder that responsibility on ourselves and do “everything in our power’ to live in a conscious, animal-friendly, life-friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable way.
What you never knew you wanted to know about animals – but you really do
Did you know that –
Can actually taste sunshine? Yes, I did say ‘taste’. They don’t have eyes. Which makes sense since they’re underground most of the time. But on the odd occasion they do pop up, they taste light with LITE-1, a protein from a family of taste-receptors. LITE-1 enables these little animals to taste light 50 times better than we humans can see it via light-receptors in our eyes. I wonder what it tastes like.
Can grow themselves a magnificent mane of fur, exactly like their mate, the King of Beasts? Five lionesses in Botswana are the living proof of this strange anomaly. One is even going around roaring like a male, and ahem, humping other females. The world has more than enough testosterone already thanks ladies.
‘Listen’ with the hairs on their legs? So, without ears, they can hear us talking from right across the other side of the room. That leg hair vibrates in response to sound waves from our voices, which in turn triggers neural signals to the eight-leggers’ brain. Fortunately, they can’t actually make out what we’re shrieking: ‘Get that spider out of here!’ To them it just sounds like a really bad phone connection. I never say that by the way. I’m a big fan.
Help make wine? It’s true! Yeast is the magic alchemy that turns grapes into wine. And where does the yeast comes from? Wasps’ guts, would you believe. Certain wasps store wild yeasts in their guts over winter. When the wasps feast on the following year’s grape harvest the yeasts are left behind on the fruit. No glass of velvety hints-of-citrus chardonnay without our winemaking friends the wasps.
Ratites (nothing to do with rats!)
the biggest birds in the world and flightless to boot, make for ‘stellar dads and unusual lovers’? The ratites are the emus, ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis and rheas.
All male ratites (except ostriches) are super-dads. They both incubate the eggs and take care of the chicks after they are hatched.
So now to the interesting bit, the big birds’ love life. Very unusually in birds, ratites have penises, “really dense, collagenous penises” that they push out of their body cavity to mate. Truly. What can I say?
A Never Before Seen Chinese Spider
Camouflages itself to look exactly like a leaf? And that’s not all. To make the disguise even more convincing, s/he picks dead leaves up off the ground, drags them up the tree to its chosen twig and attaches them there with spider silk. It’s a case of spot the one among many that isn’t actually a leaf. The creature was finally rumbled when an unusually sharp-eyed arachnologist noticed suspicious glints of silk apparently attaching leaves to a tree. On closer inspection and to his great surprise, one of the leaves turned out to be a very cunning creature, until that moment completely unknown to humans. And probably also to its prey until sadly it’s too late for them.
Can express opinions and tell us if they’re too hot, too cold, and if they want their blanket on or not? The only thing about this news hot off the press that I find surprising is the scientists’ wonderment at discovering what they never knew before – that equids have the ‘intelligence’ to communicate with us. I imagine the horses would be laughing up their sleeves, if they had sleeves to laugh up.
The leader of this particular piece of research told the BBC, “Horses are often considered to be not very intelligent but this shows that using the right methods they can actually communicate and express their opinions and they can take choices that seem sensible to us even.“ Oh, the arrogance of the human race vis a vis the nonhuman animal kingdom knows no bounds!
I think it says far more about humans’ clodhopping inability to understand other creatures than it does about the latter’s abilities, don’t you?
American Burying Beetles
Have some freaky mating fetishes? Yes, we’re back to That again. But this is courtship as you’ve never known it. The male beetle has a uniquely bizarre way of getting ready for love. No bunches of red roses for his beloved. What he likes to sniff out for her is a nicely rotting corpse. And why not. It seems he can smell a carcass (small mammal or bird) from miles away – well, at least two miles, which is still pretty impressive.
He uses the ‘scent’ to lure the female to the spot and together they go to town ripping fur (or feathers) from the cadaver. Then they roll what’s left into a ball, ‘seasoning’ it with their oral and anal secretions. Eek.
The next step is equally macabre. They bury the carcass ‘ball’ in a grave lined with its own fur or feathers. Once the task is completed, it’s ‘down to business’. Finally, the now fertilised eggs are deposited in a tunnel right next to the grave. When the baby burying beetles hatch there’s a tasty well-‘seasoned’ corpse right there for them to feast on. Go beetles!
And on that somewhat gruesome note we must end this episode of the weird and wonderful. I’m sure there will be more to come.
If you want to know more about worms loving the taste of sunshine, click here
If you want to know more about be-maned lionesses and see a photo of this oddity of nature, click here
If you want to know more about spiders’ hearing with their hairy legs, click here
If you want to know more about wasps and wine, click here
If you want to know more about ratite dads & lovers, click here
If you want to have a go yourself at spotting the cunning Chinese leaf spider, click here Update 13th December 2016 Scientists have now chosen the binomial Latin tag for this newly-discovered creature. They think it’s odd shape resembles the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and have named it after the hat’s original owner Godric Gryffindor. So it’s official. The trickster is called Eriovixia gryffindori. Eriovixia denotes its genus, and gryffindori this particular species. Click the link for some good pics.
If you want to know how the horsey ‘take my blanket off’ discovery was made, click here
If you want to know more about the corpse-sniffing American burying beetle, click here
We all know the classical wildlife photography shots: majestic tigers, glorious elephants, dazzling landscapes. But nature isn’t only about that – nature can be funny too. So while photography may be a serious matter, every year, the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards celebrate the wild and the fluffy, the cute and the hilarious animals which we see too rarely.
Founded by two passionate wildlife photographers, the awards are not only about the laughs, though: “way more importantly, this competition is about conservation,“ organizers told Bored Panda. They’re working with Born Free Foundation, a conservation charity which attempts to protect wildlife. Here are some of the best photos of this year:
Photo by Angela Bohlke
Photo by Adam Parsons
Photo by Philip Marazzi
Photo by Perdita Petzi
Photo by Mario Gustavo Fiorucci
Photo by Artyom Krivosheev
Photo by CWPA
Photo by Henrik Spranz
Photo by Tom Stables
Photo by Anup Deodhar
Photo by Patricia Bauchman
I can’t decide whether my favourite is the frog or the owls!
“The elephant has worked for humans for too long. It was used in wars, it was used to deforest its own home. What is the little thing I can do as a human to say sorry, for my species for what we have done to them?”
says Paul Barton, the man who dragged a piano up a mountain to play for aging injured elephants.
Remember Prince Charles talking to his plants to make them grow better? You probably don’t. It was thirty years ago after all. At the time he took quite a pasting in the press. But studies prove that plants do indeed seem to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ different sounds. Clearly HRH’s plants’ taste in voices is different from mine!
Then someone discovered that plants also like music, Mozart proving top favourite on the plant-playlist. The Japanese went into this big. They found that ‘Mozart bananas’ and ‘Mozart tomatoes’ ripen more quickly and taste sweeter. And it wasn’t just the plants. Other food products like miso and soy sauce turned out better when made to music. Japanese sake develops “a richer fragrance and milder taste” when treated to an hour of Mozart played twice a day for the month it takes to ferment. Or so its brewer claims.
And – and this is about as nuts as it can get – how about playing Mozart operas to microbes in a sewage works? Well, going nuts with melodious Mozart saves money it seems. A sewage works just south of Berlin has a specially designed sound system to faithfully recreate the proper spread of orchestral sound you get in a concert hall. Playing Mozart operas – and yes, it has to be operas – speeds up the breakdown of the biomass, saving them €1000 a month, which is not to be sniffed at. (Sorry!) Poor Mozart. He could never have dreamed he would be brought so low. Once performing to the glitterati of Europe, now to sewage microbes.
So this is all my roundabout way of saying, should we really be so surprised that many non-human animals enjoy music? I guess most of us have seen the delightful Jazz for Cows. Now watch this wonderful man jamming some 12-part blues with Peter the elephant at Elephant Stay. Have those ellies got rhythm!
Paul Barton’s duet partner as well as the pair’s avid audience are very special elephants – old, injured, many blind, still bearing the injuries sustained in their lives working in Thailand’s teak forests, but now enjoying a peaceful retirement in two not-for-profit sanctuaries.
Teak was the palm oil of the twentieth century – in such great demand in the 70s and 80s that commercial logging destroyed swathes of irreplaceable forest land and made extinct hundreds of plants and animals. Tribal peoples were forced from their forest homes. The elephants too were victims, many blinded by the twigs and branches scratching their eyes as they hauled out the heavy logs – being made to tear apart their own habitat. And being abused and mistreated along the way.
When Thailand finally put a stop to the deforestation in 1989, the elephants and their mahouts were out of a job. A mahout will not keep a burned out elephant that no longer makes him money, so some were just abandoned. After enduring so many years of pain and deprivation, they were left without the skills to survive alone. Those still capable of providing their mahouts with a living were put to work for tourists, carrying them on trekking trips, being made to perform in circuses, or begging in the city streets. Out of the frying pan into the fire. The elephants used for trekking are made to carry very excessive loads, worked for 10 hours a day, and inadequately fed. Please never go on one of these camps, and tell all your friends too. Likewise circuses.
Their fate in the cities was no better – I say ‘was’ because the Thai government no longer allows elephants in the cities where the hot asphalt scorched their sensitive feet and they never got enough to eat.
One such victim of human cruelty is Para, blinded by the logging she was forced to do and then cast aside when she was no longer any use. It’s so good to know she now lives peacefully on the banks of the River Kwai in ElephantsWorld, a non-profit ‘retirement home’ for old, injured and distressed pachyderms.
Enter Paul Barton, English artist and musician. When he reached 30 Paul decided it was time for some adventure in his life and applied for a 3-month teaching post at the Piano School in Thailand, a part of the world he’d always wanted to visit. That was in 1996. Paul’s three months turned into 20 years. He found his adventure. He also found love, and a wife. And it just so happened that his wife was interested in animal conservation and activism. What do you get when you join together in holy matrimony an animal activist and a musician? Why music for elephants, of course! And this is how Paul came to be playing the piano to Para, in his own words:
I had previously worked with blind children for two years and seen the impact music had in their lives. So I wanted to try out that theory with these blind elephants. This elephant [Para] in particular was so intelligent, I thought she would appreciate some music. I thought hard about what kind of music she would like to hear and finally settled on Beethoven. Her reaction was so surprising.
Elephants eat a lot of food. A lot. When an elephant gets to eat, it’s a bit like a dog. A dog will eat its food so quickly because it’s not sure if it will ever eat again. And elephants are the same. Once they get their hands on some juicy leaves, they will eat and eat and nothing can tear them away from their food.
That morning I brought the piano in early to the sanctuary. Plara was taken to a field full of juicy bamboo shoots and she began eating with a single minded dedication. I started to play Beethoven and she stopped eating. There was this half eaten bamboo shoot sticking out of her trunk while she stared at me. That was a reaction never seen before. An elephant stopped eating because of music. That was the beginning of this project.
Paul has been playing music to elephants ever since, at both Elephant Stay & ElephantsWorld.
For his 50th birthday, Paul decided on something special.
“The elephant has worked for humans for too long. It was used in wars, it was used to deforest its own home. What is the little thing I can do as a human to say sorry, for my species for what we have done to them?” he said.
He dreamed up a special challenge to raise funds for his elephant friends – dragging a piano up a mountain where they liked to gather. And there he treated them to the soothing tones of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, the slow movement.
If you play classical music to an elephant, something soft and beautiful, something that human beings have been listening to for hundreds of years, something that is timeless- and you play that to an elephant that is blind and they’ve never heard music before- the reaction is priceless. There is a special bond between you and the elephant. You are communicating with them in a different language. That language is neither our nor theirs. There is something infinitesimally wonderful in a piece of Beethoven that connects me to that elephant and that feeling is otherworldly.
Well, if we’re going to be picky there are 11 faces, but who’s counting. Just enjoy! And send good vibes and prayers for Anita Krajnc facing trial today with a probable prison sentence if she is convicted. Compassion is not a crime.
With thanks to ChooseVeg.com for this beautiful little compilation of amazing piggy facts and adorable piggy faces
1. Pigs are considered the fifth-most intelligent animal in the world—even more intelligent than dogs—and are capable of playing video games with more focus and success than chimps!
2. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.
3. Pigs enjoy snuggling close to one another and prefer to sleep nose-to-nose.
4. Pigs have excellent object-location memory. If they find grub in a specific spot, they’ll remember to look there next time!
5. Pigs have a sophisticated sense of direction. They can find their way home from huge distances away.
6. In the Chinese zodiac, the pig represents fortune, happiness and honesty.
7. Mother pigs use individual calls for each of their piglets. Newborn piglets recognise their own calls and run to their mother’s voice.
Dedicated to Anita Krajnc of Toronto Pig Save standing tial on 24th August for the crime of giving water to dehydrated pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse.
“There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them”
Renowned neuroscientist Lori Marino
An oink is not just an oink, and a grunt not just a grunt. It seems from a new study by the University of Lincoln that just like us, pigs have quite a lot to say for themselves, which will come as no surprise to those lucky people who get to rub shoulders with piggy buddies. Or to the rest of us who call nonhuman animals our friends and equals.
As usual, science is catching up with what we instinctively knew already. But the research into pigs’ language is great news because it adds yet another to the fast-growing tally of studies into the richness of animals’ lives, their sentience and cognition – hot topics right now. It all helps to keep our fellow earthlings firmly in the spotlight, pushing their claim to have their interests considered ever higher up the agenda, and inviting us to give outdated cultural norms a thorough overhaul.
The new study from Lincoln shows that ‘proactive personality types’ – what we no doubt would call ‘extroverts’ – are, just like humans, much chattier than their introverted friends. And those chatty pigs are not just talking to themselves. They are communicating with each other, lead researcher Dr. Lisa Collins says.
“The domestic pig is a highly social and vocal species which uses acoustic signals in a variety of ways; maintaining contact with other group members while foraging, parent-offspring communication, or to signal if they are distressed. The sounds they make convey a wide range of information such as the emotional, motivational and physiological state of the animal”. Much like us.
Studies like this one help convey the message that pigs are individuals, persons in their own right, and their lives, their friends, their families, matter as much to them as ours do to us. To treat them as commodity units in an industrial system is a terrible injustice for which history will reproach us.
“Dogs look up to man. Cats look down on man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.”
As well as their native pig language of expressive oinks and grunts, they’ve also been known to master with ease a visual language of symbols invented by humans, and to put the symbols together in complicated combinations to represent things – actions and objects. Much like us then, because that’s basically the same as the way we put letters (symbols) together in combinations to make words, which represent things – actions and objects.
When it comes to mirrors, particularly car wing mirrors, some of us struggle to work out what’s what. Well, pigs have mirrors all figured out:
“To use information from a mirror and find a food bowl, each pig must have observed features of its surroundings, remembered these and its own actions, deduced relationships among observed and remembered features and acted accordingly. This ability indicates assessment awareness in pigs. The results may have some effects on the design of housing conditions for pigs and may lead to better pig welfare.” D M Broom, University of Cambridge. Just maybe Mr Broom, we shouldn’t be ‘housing’/incarcerating them at all.
Other studies have demonstrated the high-level mental abilities pigs share with “other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans.” says Dr Marino.*
And like us they take on the feelings of their companions. So some pigs were trained to anticipate either rewards in the form of chocolate raisins or something less pleasant, being put in temporary solitary confinement. When untrained pigs who didn’t know what was coming were put with the trained ones who had learned to anticipate what was coming, the untrained pigs showed the same emotional response of happiness or stress (indicated by ear and tail postures, and release of the hormone cortisol) as their fellows. Researchers call it ’emotional contagion’.
Just like us, pigs have complex social lives, and demonstrate empathy. Like us they have the ability to learn from, and cooperate with each other. They have excellent memories. (In that particular attribute they are not just like me!) Like us they can find their way around mazes, and do puzzles.
Like us they enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and a good massage. They are curious and like trying out new things.
And like us, pigs just love to have fun! You can find innumerable videos of pigs at play on YouTube, But just to highlight the likeness in intelligence and playfulness, but the stark difference in status, the Dutch Playing with Pigs Project has developed an electronic game called Pig Chase that humans and pigs can play together.
“So what we have is a game that enables humans to play with an animal they normally only consume as meat. For pigs, humans are transformed into a source of entertainment.”
So world, isn’t it time to do as science says – time to get rethinking pigs.
Respect for the lives of others should not, it goes without saying, rest its case on a creature’s being clever, playful, sociable, or empathetic. But if we can be persuaded to see just how much like us pigs are, we may start to question the unhappy life and untimely death we have consigned them to. Then hopefully we will make changes to the tragic situation we see in the chart above and the video below.
Cute little poem with even cuter illustrations, and a message that children just KNOW, but many adults seem to have forgotten.. Take time to have a leisurely mooch around Violet’s Veg*n e-Comics website and look at the books. Wondrous stuff!