Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) categorize pictures of human heads, 20 July 2018

Photo: Messerli Research Institute

In an experiment conducted by the Unit of Comparative Cognition (headed by Prof. Ludwig Huber), female researchers led by Marianne Wondrak, showed that pigs (race: Kune Kune) are capable of categorizing images of human heads. First, they learned to distinguish the front and back views of the heads of 10 people, shown by a computer screen. Afterwards, 16 new heads were shown and they could be assigned correctly spontaneously. This means, that the pigs were able to generalize the task by not merely memorizing the pictures, but using the view itself as a distinguishing criterion. Final tests with modified images showed that the animals individually applied different strategies based on different head characteristics. In addition, to demonstrate that pigs can master visually complex tasks, these amazing results have provided further evidence, that pigs have exceptional cognitive abilities. These results should have implications for both, husbandry and animal ethics.

Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159118302375 1

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