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Pigs and chickens are smarter than you think

Source:  Copyright 2002, Reuters
Date:  September 12, 2002
Original URL: Status DEAD

LEICESTER, England — Pigs and chickens are more intelligent than most people believe, scientists said Wednesday.

Chickens can learn from each other and are encouraged by example, and pigs use subtle social behavior and signal their competitive strength to rivals, researchers from the University of Bristol in southern England told a science conference.

Despite their reputation as the bird-brains of the avian world, chickens can be taught what food to eat or avoid, are able to adapt their behavior, and can learn to navigate, studies have shown.

"There are hidden depths to chickens," said Professor Christine Nichol, who has studied their behavior.

Pigs have also demonstrated cunning behavior and shown they can exploit the knowledge of their colleagues to obtain food. They may also be able to discriminate between different levels of aggressiveness to sort out their social order.

"Our results suggest that pigs can develop quite sophisticated social competitive behavior, similar to that seen in some primate species," Dr. Mike Mendl told the British Association for the Advancement of Science festival.

A better understanding of animal intelligence could help farmers tackle problems such as aggression in pigs, which causes deaths and injuries and accounts for an estimated 20 million pounds (US$30 million) each year in lost revenue in Britain, according to Mendl.

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