How smart are Kunekune pigs?
Here at the Zoo, we’re honored to have some of the Earth’s most intelligent species in our stewardship. You may be familiar with some of our resident “geniuses,” like orangutans and elephants. But we’ve got one smarty-pants species that may surprise you: Kunekune pigs!
It’s becoming more well known that pigs are extremely intelligent- studies suggest pigs have higher cognition than dogs or cats, ranking among highly-intelligent species like great apes and dolphins. Pigs are highly trainable, able to learn behaviors as complex as making word-like sounds on command and playing videogames with joysticks. And according to studies at the University of Cambridge, “pigs are highly sensitive animals who become aware of their own existence. Moreover, their skills help them to gain knowledge that can be used later to solve complex problems” (Animal Equality).
We have two phenomenal porcine representatives at Zoo Atlanta: Kunekune pigs Arya and Stark! Kunekunes are a medium-size breed (they can reach 200 pounds) of domestic pigs native to New Zealand, and are known for their friendly demeanor and remarkable social learning abilities. Arya and Stark are trained in a number of animal husbandry behaviors that allow their keepers to best care for them. One of the most impressive is that they sit and wait for each meal until given a release command!
Due to their high intelligence and relatively easy care Kunekunes are becoming a popular alternative to pot-bellied pigs on farmsteads and other suitable dwellings (they require ample land to enjoy, proper veterinary care, companionship, and mental stimulation). It’s exciting to see more and more people expanding their perception of pigs beyond the concept of livestock. As always, we’d like to challenge you to think about the ways we can all be involved in helping animals: for pigs, practicing Meatless Mondays can be a huge help! Even some of the world’s most renowned pork lovers, like Chef Mario Batali, are taking the Meatless Monday pledge to help reduce demand. You can read more about Meatless Mondays here, and don’t forget to stop by the lower Zoo to meet Arya and Stark!
Angier, N. (2009, November 9). Pigs Prove to Be Smart, if Not Vain. The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10angier.html
Black, J. (2010, May 19). Meatless Mondays, a movement that has legs. The Washington Post.
Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/18/AR2010051800891.html
Broom, D. M., Sena, H., & Moynihan, K. L. (2009, November). Pigs learn what a mirror image represents and use it to obtain information. Science Direct. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003347209003571
The Intelligence Of Pigs, Comparable To Elephants And Dolphins. Animal Equality. (2015, October 2). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://animalequality.org/news/the-intelligence-of-pigs-comparable-to-that-of-elephants-and-dolphins/
Kruzer, A. (2022, March 9). Should You Keep a Kunekune Pig as a Pet? The Spruce Pets. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/kunekune-1239251
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