Familiarity and personality affect social support in juvenile pigs

This thesis study social support in pigs exposed to a novel foam-stunning situation. Animals in distress can experience an attenuation of their stress response if provided companionship.

This thesis studied the social support phenomenon in 72 nine-week old juvenile pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) of the crossbreed Yorkshire/Hampshire. Pigs were placed either alone or with a familiar or an unfamiliar age-matched conspecific of the opposite sex in a stunning box. Half of the groups were exposed to an air-filled foam inside of the box and half remained in the empty box. All pigs underwent an individual behaviour assessment at eight-weeks of age for a personality evaluation. Results from behaviour observations indicate that pigs were startled by the foam exposure as suggested from differences in frequency of escape attempts, vocalisations and locomotor patterns. Pigs provided companionship were less likely to perform escape attempts. Differences between familiar and unfamiliar pig pairs suggest a greater emotional transfer between familiar individuals. Unfamiliarity between pigs can be understood as either enhancing or hampering social support. Pigs displayed individual behavioural variations that correlated with their behaviour inside the stunning box. Findings indicate that personality affect motivation to engage in social contact during a stressful situation and additionally suggest that pigs adapt their coping style to the social setting.

About me

Astrid Söderquist Applied Ethology and Animal Biology

Hi! I am a Swedish master’s student in animal behaviour. I took my bachelors here at SLU at the Ethology & Animal Welfare program. Now I am back for my master’s project which I did in collaboration with a research group from SLU and RISE. I am thrilled that I got to take part in research that promotes animal welfare with an applied approach while at the same time working with interesting questions in animal behaviour. As you might have guessed - I am passionate about animal welfare and have a soft spot for pigs. I want to work in areas where I can contribute to the welfare of animals from the behavioural point of view. I am self employed as an advisory ethologist and part of the platform Etolog.se.

astrid.em.soderquist@gmail.com // linkedin.com/in/astrid-söderquist