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Home > Dogs > Are Pigs Smarter Than Dogs? Vet Approved Facts & Cognitive Skills

Are Pigs Smarter Than Dogs? Vet Approved Facts & Cognitive Skills

Mini pig and dog on the field with dandelions

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Dr. Amanda Charles

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Pigs are highly intelligent animals, many farmers who raise pigs can attest to their unique sensitivity and intelligence. But how are they compared to dogs? Are pigs smarter than our canine companions?

It turns out that yes, pigs are smarter than dogs, as studies have shown them to be smarter than 3-year-old kids1! Let’s find out more information about these adorable animals.

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Are Pigs as Intelligent as Dogs?

The general consensus is that pigs are more intelligent than dogs and may even be of similar intelligence to chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates. They can also perform many of the same cognitive activities as other intelligent animals like elephants and dolphins.

In addition, pigs are proven to have long-term memory, be able to learn and understand an easy symbolic language, and pick up and remember complicated symbols for specific behaviors and objects in a number of studies. The intelligence of pigs may be attested to by any large animal vet, farmer, or person who has interacted with them for a long time.

happy little piglet (kune kune) and australian shepherd dog in the garden
Image Credit: Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova, Shutterstock

new pig dividerWhy Are Pigs So Smart?


The capacity to distinguish between items is one of the fundamental cognitive building blocks. How can we know, for instance, that a red square and a blue circle are different? By exposing pigs to both well-known and unfamiliar objects, behavioral scientists can see how the pigs would respond to each. Pigs were shown objects that were familiar to them ( eg a cereal box) and novel objects ( eg a wooden spoon). Once the pigs were shown an object repeatedly for 2 days, they remembered the object for 5 or more days and showed a preference for novel, unfamiliar objects. This demonstrated their long-term memory and ability to distinguish between objects.

Other research has revealed that pigs’ cognitive abilities go beyond just being able to distinguish between different objects. In one study, pigs were confined to two sets of crates for varying times: one set for 4 hours, the other for just 30 minutes2. Most pigs preferred the 30-minute container over the 4-hour one when given the option to choose between the two. As a result, researchers came to two key conclusions: Pigs are capable of both time perception and decision-making based on lessons learned from prior experiences.


Pigs are excellent communicators, both with humans and other pigs. You may have heard about how strong pigs’ sense of smell is, such as how they can detect odors up to 25 feet underground. Their sensitive snouts, however, also enable them to interact with one another through pheromones that are jam-packed with data.

Pigs also use body language to effectively communicate with humans, whose noses aren’t quite as keen. They use their nudges, tail wags, stubbornness, playfulness, and even smiles to express their feelings and desires. They can be very noisy when this doesn’t work and will employ a variety of oinks, grunts, and squeals to communicate. Researchers have identified approximately 20 unique noises used by pigs to transmit their emotions.

owner petting teacup pig outdoors
Image By: Shirelady, Shutterstock


Pigs can sort their memories according to priority. They learned and could remember which source had more quantity of food when given access to two separate sources—one with more and one with less—and they would go back to that source in the future.

Problem-Solving Skills

Budapest researchers have tested the problem-solving abilities of pigs by presenting them with solvable and unsolvable puzzles3. They started by placing food behind an upside-down plastic container. Pigs rapidly realized that turning the container over was necessary in order to access the tasty treat. They finished this activity more quickly than the experiment’s dogs did.

After that, the container was secured so that it could not be turned upside down. Pigs were still trying to solve problems on their own, even when faced with unsolvable puzzles.  Dogs turned to humans for support more often than the pigs.

young pigs on the grass
Image By: dyoma, Shutterstock

Tool Use

Some of the most intelligent animals on earth, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, elephants, and octopuses, are on the list of creatures discovered using tools. Pigs have been added to that list, too! Meredith Root-Bernstein, an ecologist, observed Visayan warty pigs in 2015 as they constructed their nests in anticipation of incoming piglets. Root-Bernstein saw that one cunning pig had taken a piece of bark into her mouth and was shifting and moving soil for the nest.

new pig dividerAre Pigs the Most Intelligent Animals?

Determining which animal is the ‘smartest’ really depends on your criteria. However, chimpanzees and other great apes such as orangutans usually top the list of intelligent animals, not pigs. Humans have long been impressed by their incredible intelligence. Chimps can solve complex problems and recognize when they have passed an exam.

four young pigs in a pen
Image By: Anne Richard, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Although pigs are inherently endearing and intelligent, our perceptions of them are frequently shaped by the way they behave in confined situations such as factory farms. In these environments, their social structures are destroyed, they are unable to communicate effectively with one another due to the odor and noise of the farms, and these animals lack the space and straw needed for the clean living conditions that they cherish.

Even more intelligent than dogs, pigs have been shown to possess similar cognitive abilities to young children. Studies have shown their ability to discriminate between objects, demonstrated their memory and ability to learn, as well as showing that they have a perception of time. They show self-awareness, form likes and dislikes, and experience emotions not dissimilar to our own.

Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

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