Occasionally, while perusing past editions of the Almanac, we find timeless advice that bears—or begs for—repeating, such as this advice on “love talk for pigs” from 1987.
In an experiment last winter, it was found that the pigs on Doug Johnson’s farm in Fairfield, Iowa, were much happier and calmer when they were subjected to a gentle male voice coming from a computer set up near the pigpen.
Here are the four statements broadcast at the pigs that they particularly liked:
“My mind and heart are always crowded by visions of your coy elbow.” (Mr. Johnson’s 13- and 14-year-old pigs scampered around the pen in an orgy of good-humored playfulness when they heard the voice saying that).
“The blood rushes to my head when we play bridge at your mother’s every Friday night.” (Two of the older pigs liked this one best.)
“I like to fondle your sleeveless fur coat.” (Some reaction, but nothing special.)
“I think I’d swoon if you allowed me to kiss your limpid umbrella.” (This one sent them hog wild.)
A sociologist who was on a panel charged with gauging the pigs’ reaction to the computer voice said that it didn’t matter what was said. Instead, it was simply that the sound “may have had a calming effect.” (There’s always somebody around like that.)
While we’re on the subject of what pigs like and don’t like, we ought to report that Dr. Paul Helmsworth, leader of an Australian research team that spent 5 years studying pigs, says that pigs do not like someone “standing upright” near them, do not like being patted, and, finally, do not like being touched by someone wearing a pair of gloves. If you have supporting experiences or evidence to the contrary, please let us know.
Image credit: Pattay Photography/Getty Images
Happy Pigs, Sad Pigs
We do know that pigs can feel optimistic and pessimistic according to how they are being treated—not dissimilar to humans!
In a study by Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in the United Kingdom, pigs were placed in either a boring environment with nothing, not even straw, and other pigs were placed in an enriched environment with more space, freedom to roam in straw, and interactive toys.
Upon hearing a strange noise, the pigs in the boring environment were pessimistic about the noise and though it might cue something unpleasant so they did not approach the noise. In the enriched environment, pigs were positive about the noise and, without exception, approached it with optimistic expectations.
Half Glass Full or Empty?
As humans, we can relate to this. If you are having a bad day and feeling low and presented with an ambiguous cue such as your boss calling you into their office, you might think, “What have I done wrong?” But if you are in a positive environment and having a good day, you are more likely to walk into your boss’s office with optimism and curiousity.
It’s not just pigs! In prior years, a similar study showed that cows which were given a name and treated as an individual produced more milk than unnamed cattle!