Many people who know pigs compare them to dogs because they are friendly, loyal and intelligent. Like a puppy dog, a young pig will scuttle toward their parent or carer at the sound of their call, they are happy to see you and they can be very affectionate. They are also – despite their reputation and common terms like ‘pigsty’ – very clean and hygienic animals. But do you know what to do with a dancing pig or the biggest threat to baby pigs?
We take a look at these questions along with some more baby pigs facts that you might not know, as well as some answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions!
8 Awesome Baby Pigs Facts!
Baby Pigs Are Called Piglets
Baby pigs are known as ‘piglets‘. When they get to the stage of being fully weaned, a piglet is then known as a ‘shoat‘. This only refers to a piglet still under one year old though, and is rarely used outside of farming.
Male pigs are known as a ‘boar‘ but if they are not used for breeding and are castrated, they are known as ‘barrow‘. Females grow up to be ‘gilts‘, until they have had their first litter, at which point they are called a ‘sow‘.
Collective nouns for a group of pigs include ‘herd‘, ‘drove‘ and ‘drift‘. There are other collective nouns used to describe groups of swine and large pigs (hogs), but only the three above are commonly used to describe young pigs. There is no specific collective noun for a group of baby pigs.
Baby Pigs Are Very Perceptive
Piglets are fast learners and very perceptive little animals. Newborn piglets are known to be able to recognise their mothers call and run to her when prompted. By the time they reach two weeks old they are able to understand their own individual names!
Baby Pigs Are Very Intelligent
Piglets intelligence is not just displayed in responding to their name, but they are known to be intelligent animals and have been found to be more trainable than dogs or cats. In fact, across many studies, scientists have come to believe that pigs are one of the most intelligent animals, ranking close behind apes and dolphins.
They develop complex emotions similar to humans, like happiness and excitement as well as threat emotions like fear and anxiety. In tests, they display the ability to remember important information for long periods of time, to learn about consequence and to form preference (like and dislike) behaviours.
Like Puppies, Baby Pigs Can’t Sweat But They Can Learn Tricks
Like puppies, piglets do not have many sweat glands to help them keep cool. Light skinned pigs burn easily in the sun, hence having to roll in mud to keep cool. This is similar to the elephant, or the hippopotamus to which the pig is a distant relative.
Also like puppies, piglets are able to learn tricks, though they may be able to learn them earlier in life than puppies. They can learn to spin, sit and stay, to come when called and have been known to learn how to play dead.
A strong motivator for pigs, is food. They are likely to respond with more attention and cause when food is involved. This can be particularly useful if training a piglet as a pet, with how to walk when attached to a lead, or how to react when handled. Pigs generally don’t like to be handled but is raising as a pet, trips to the vet and grooming is going to be a concern. They respond well to training for this.
Also Like Puppies, Piglets Wag Their Tail
These cute little animals, like puppies, can’t contain their joy when they are happy. They will wag their tail quite vigorously when happy or excited. It is more noticeable on some breeds with longer or straight tails. They don’t just wag when they are happy though. Unlike a puppy, a piglet will also wag their tail when threatened, or fearful, or even to swat flies.
Baby Pigs Can Learn Up To 20 Vocalizations
Some studies suggest that baby pigs can learn up to 20 different vocalizations. These are categorized into 5 types of sound – croaking, deep grunts, high grunts, screams, and squeaks. These sometimes have other names like oinking or barking. Depending on the situation and their emotional state, they will use a combination of these sounds.
High frequency calls like squeals and screams are usually used in negative or threatening situations only. Whereas lower frequency sounds such as grunts and croaks can occur in both positive and negative situations.
A pig’s squeal can be incredibly loud, reaching up to 115 decibels, 3 decibels higher than the sound of a supersonic Concorde!
One Of The Biggest Dangers To Baby Pigs, Is Being Crushed
Baby pigs need to watch out when they are feeding and socialising with their family. While they are very social, loving animals, piglets do sometimes end up being crushed by their mothers. It is a common enough problem for there to be devices employed (farrowing crates), particularly in pig farming, to prevent this from happening.
The most common occasion for this to happen is when the sow is laying down to feed her babies and the piglet doesn’t get out of the way in time. This can cause impact fatalities, but most often suffocation. Believe it or not, some estimates put the number at 6 million piglets that are accidentally crushed every year by a mother sow.
A Dancing Piglet Is Usually A Sick Piglet
If you see a baby piglet shaking or ‘dancing’ it is not a new trick they have learned, it is a real problem. This can be a sign of congenital tremor caused by a pestivirus. This is often referred to as ‘dancing pig’ or ‘shaking pig’ because of the obvious tremor.
The most common cause for this is damage to the nervous control system by the pestivirus. There is no cure, but treatment will reduce mortality. Severe tremor may prevent a piglet from nursing properly.
Baby Pig FAQs
Baby Pig Lifecycle
Pigs are born after a gestation period of around 114 to 116 days, up to around 122 days in some breeds. They are born covered in hair and are able to see and walk within a few hours of being born.
Piglets drink their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of their lives. After 4 weeks, they start to eat solid food as well as continuing to drink milk.
By around 6 months of age, both male and female pigs reach sexual maturity, but are still considered adolescent until around 18 months of age.
How Many Pigs Are Born In A Litter?
The average sow gives birth to 8 to 12 pigs at a time.
The largest litter of piglets ever farrowed was 37 by a sow on a farm in Australia. 36 piglets were born alive and 33 total survived.
What Do Baby Pigs Look Like?
Baby piglets are incredibly cute. They look just like miniature versions of adult pigs. So much so that some people that think they are buying micro-pigs are just sold piglets of normal breeds. It soon becomes apparent as pigs grow quickly!
Piglets at a very young age are covered in a thin hair, with all features more or less in proportion to their bodies.
What Do Baby Pigs Eat?
For the first few weeks of their life, baby pigs rely on their mothers milk. They are nursed for around 9-10 weeks, in total by which time they are weaned completely. They may be introduced to solid food by around 4-5 weeks to supplement their milk.
They should be fed a good range of fruits and vegetables, buy should not be fed any foods high in calories, sugar, sodium and carbs. They should also not be fed any scraps of foods containing offal or animal bones.
An average pig eats five pounds of feed each day, or a ton of food every year.
How Quick Do Baby Pigs Grow?
Baby pigs grow very fast. At birth they can weight between 3 to 5 lbs, but this differs across breeds. By 12 weeks of age they can be as much as 12 times their birth weight. In adulthood their weight can vary greatly.
The smallest breed of pig is the Mini Maialino. Pigs of this breed average only 20 pounds at maturity.
The largest pig on record was a Poland-China hog named ‘Big Bill’. He weighed a portly 2,552 lbs and was so large that he dragged his belly on the ground. He had a shoulder height of 5 feet and a length of 9 feet.
Where Do Baby Pigs Live?
Wild or domestic pigs can be found on every continent except Antarctica. In the wild, they live in forests, grasslands, and swamps. But most pigs are domestic animals, kept as livestock or pets in ‘pig pens’, barns, or on homesteads. In both cases, baby pigs live close to their mothers for the first few weeks and months of their lives, fully dependant at first on their mothers milk for survival.
Natural Predators Of Baby Pigs
Adult pigs are safe from most predators, they can be quite fierce. However, large predators such as mountain lions, alligators, bears and packs of wolves are known to take down adult pigs. Young piglets on the other hand have a greater variety of opportunistic predators, including golden eagles, lynx and coyotes.