Pilo is a black-and-gray four-year-old Minnesota mini pig. Since he was just two months old, Pilo has been raised just like a family dog. Along with 10 other pigs, he is part of a study at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. The study’s goal is to determine the similarities and differences between the two species by equalizing the upbringing of pigs and dogs. Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at the university, explained, “We try to understand why pigs don’t become dogs.”
Eötvös Loránd University is home to one of the world’s leading animal behavior research groups. In the 1990s, researchers at the university puzzled other scientists with their decision to study dogs. Since then, there have been countless breakthroughs about how dogs and other animals experience emotions, solve puzzles, use tools, and more. Now, Eötvös Loránd University researchers have turned their attention to pigs.
In 2020, Andics and his team released a peer-reviewed study comparing how dogs and pigs communicated with humans when solving problems. This was the first study of its kind. They found that in situations where a problem was easy to solve, pigs and dogs interacted very similarly with humans. PhD student Paula Pérez said:
The similarities that we found between the two species point to their similar capacities for engaging in communicative interactions with humans.
When a problem became more challenging—and thus more exciting—dogs were quicker to look to humans for help, while pigs threw themselves into the task. The pigs were also faster to complete tasks and receive their rewards.
As for Pilo, he is living his best life with a dog trainer named Szilvi Gergely. He has his own cozy bed, walks in a harness, and loves having his belly rubbed. Gergely says because Pilo is extremely food motivated, training him has been much easier than training her two dogs. Pilo learned to come when called in just three days, knows how to open the garden gate, and understands that Gergely likes to sleep in on weekends.
Although study after study has revealed pigs to be intelligent, emotionally complex beings, they are often treated like meat-producing machines. In 1976, the U.S. publication Hog Farm Management read, “Forget the pig is an animal—treat him just like a machine in a factory.” And in 1978, a National Hog Farmer article stated that female pigs should be considered “a valuable piece of machinery whose function is to pump out baby pigs like a sausage machine.”
You can take a stand for pigs—and all animals—simply by eating more plant-based foods. Make your next barbecue delicious and compassionate with these eight vegan grill recipes. Download our free veg starter guide for tips and tricks.