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Pigs rival dogs as ‘man’s best friend’, study claims

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Dogs are sometimes called man’s best friend, but research suggests they may have competition – from pigs. 

Pigs show just as much affection to their owners as dogs – although pooches usually tend to show interesting things off to you, in line with a study. 

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary have discovered pigs that were raised around humans lack the power to exhibit ‘referential communication’.

‘We advise that pigs might lack necessary characteristics which might be crucial for the emergence of this form of communication,’ said first creator Paula Pérez Fraga.

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University have discovered that human-socialised pigs is not going to try to indicate us things they find interesting. Pictured: Researcher Paula Perez and a pig

The team made this discovery when investigating the pig's ability to demonstrate 'referential communication'. Pictured: Left: Setup of the test. Right: Experimenter hiding the food. S = subject, O = owner, B = hiding boxes, E = experimenter, P = plastic container

The team made this discovery when investigating the pig’s ability to exhibit ‘referential communication’. Pictured: Left: Setup of the test. Right: Experimenter hiding the food. S = subject, O = owner, B = hiding boxes, E = experimenter, P = plastic container

The team made this discovery when investigating the pig’s ability to exhibit ‘referential communication’.

That is an interaction between two parties where one directs the opposite’s attention to a particular entity.

Humans do that easily with language or gestures, comparable to by pointing to something, and lots of animal species have also been found to make use of it with one another, like dogs.

Chickens can communicate through at the very least 24 distinct vocalisations, in addition to different visual displays, and may use them for referential communication.

When roosters are shown computer animations of their predators, they used different alarm calls depending on the kind of predator shown. 

So after they were shown flying predators, they gave one kind of alarm call, and after they were shown terrestrial predators, comparable to raccoons, they gave one other distinctive alarm call.

For the study, published today in Scientific Reports, the researchers aimed to see if this was a necessary characteristic for the ability, using dogs and socialised pigs

For the study, published today in Scientific Reports, the researchers aimed to see if this was a crucial characteristic for the power, using dogs and socialised pigs

WHAT IS ‘REFERENTIAL COMMUNICATION’? 

Referential communication is an interaction between two parties where one directs the opposite’s attention to a particular entity.

Humans do that easily with language or gestures, like by pointing to something, and lots of animal species have also been found to make use of it with one another.

Domestic animals, like dogs, and a few human-socialised animals, like horses, cats and kangaroos, have been found to have the opportunity to referentially communicate with humans.

But, whether animals can referentially communicate with humans is one other story. 

Ms Pérez Fraga said: ‘Domestic animals seem especially predisposed to referentially communicate with humans.

‘Nonetheless, some human-socialised wild animals can do that as well, thus domestication won’t be key for this communicative ability to emerge in spite of everything.’

The researchers noticed that animals that may referentially communicate with humans – domestic or not – are likely to be of species which primarily use visual signals with one another.

For the study, published in Scientific Reports, they aimed to see if this was a crucial characteristic for the power, using dogs and socialised pigs.

The domestication of dogs is assumed to have occurred at the very least 15,000 years ago, when grey wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf species.

Many researchers imagine that their ability to form attachment with humans was developed around the identical time while they became tamer, likely over hundreds of years.

But while pigs have gotten an increasingly popular pet, they’ve not undergone the identical evolution, and are subsequently still thought to be wild.

Dogs are also known to be heavily reliant on visual communication while pigs are mainly vocal, using grunts and squeals. 

All participating pigs had been raised with human families, so they were familiar with people and their behaviours could be compared to those of dogs

All participating pigs had been raised with human families, so that they were aware of people and their behaviours may very well be in comparison with those of dogs

For the experiment, a pig or a dog was led into a room with a food reward under a box. This was unreachable for the animal but reachable for the owner

For the experiment, a pig or a dog was led right into a room with a food reward under a box. This was unreachable for the animal but reachable for the owner

They were either left in there alone or with their owner, or alternatively they were left with their owner but there was no food reward present

They were either left in there alone or with their owner, or alternatively they were left with their owner but there was no food reward present

All participating pigs had been raised with humans, so that they were aware of people and their behaviours may very well be in comparison with those of dogs. 

For the experiment, a pig or a dog were led right into a room with a food reward under a box. This was unreachable for the animal but reachable for the owner.

They were either left in there alone or with their owner, or alternatively left with their owner but there was no food reward present. 

Dr Attila Andics, the principal investigator, said: ‘We expected a rise of referential communicative behaviours when each the owner and the food reward were present, meaning that the animal was directing the eye of the human to the food location.’

To be counted as a referential behaviour, the animal would need to first interact with the reward box and orient their body towards it.

Next, they’d orient themselves towards their owner in the event that they were present within the room, or the door – that they knew their owner was behind – in the event that they weren’t. 

To be counted as a referential behaviour, the animal would have to first interact with the reward box and orient their body towards it. Next, they would orient themselves towards their owner if they were present in the room, or the door- that they knew their owner was behind - if they weren't. Pictured: A: Time spent orienting towards the boxes for dogs and pigs, B: Time spent interacting with the boxes for dogs and pigs

To be counted as a referential behaviour, the animal would need to first interact with the reward box and orient their body towards it. Next, they’d orient themselves towards their owner in the event that they were present within the room, or the door- that they knew their owner was behind – in the event that they weren’t. Pictured: A: Time spent orienting towards the boxes for dogs and pigs, B: Time spent interacting with the boxes for dogs and pigs

Even though they were raised with humans, the pigs did not try to direct their owner to the treat. Pictured: A: Time spent orienting towards the door/owner for dogs and pigs, B:  Frequency of alternation of orientation for dogs and pigs

Despite the fact that they were raised with humans, the pigs didn’t attempt to direct their owner to the treat. Pictured: A: Time spent orienting towards the door/owner for dogs and pigs, B:  Frequency of alternation of orientation for dogs and pigs

Dogs and pigs oriented themselves towards their owner greater than the door, and alternated between the food box and owner greater than the food box and door.

This shows that each species have the same readiness to take care of humans.

Nonetheless, only dogs alternated between the box and owner more when the box contained food than when it didn’t, suggesting they were attempting to direct them to it.

Despite the fact that they were raised with humans, the pigs didn’t attempt to direct their owner to the treat, either with visual cues or vocalisations.

Dr Andics said: ‘We found that when pigs and dogs were alone with their owners, they paid similar attention to her/him. 

‘Nonetheless, after the experimenter hid the reward, only dogs tried to indicate their owners where it was.

‘Pigs, in contrast, just tried to search out the solution to take it themselves.’

The researchers concluded that an animal’s ability to referentially communicate with us is probably not the results of human socialisation.

Pigs could inherently lack something required for it, which may very well be a preference for visual communication with members of the identical species.

The authors wrote: ‘That, in turn, could also be brought on by anatomical constraints including poor vision and neck rigidity.’

In addition they claim that the pigs’ strong desire to open the box and access the treat themselves can have overrode any need to direct a human towards it. 

Scientists translate pig grunts into emotions for the primary time 

Scientists say they’ve translated pig grunts into emotions for the primary time, in a possible breakthrough for monitoring animal wellbeing.

Researchers trained a man-made intelligence (AI) algorithm with 7,414 recordings of pig noises, gathered throughout the life stages of 411 pigs – including slaughter.  

The algorithm could potentially be used to construct an app for pig farmers that detects whether the animals are glad just from the noise they’re making.  

With enough data to coach the algorithm, the tactic is also used to higher understand the emotions of other mammals, experts say. 

Read more here

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