Texas Tech University

Environmental Enrichment

Animals with a well-developed brain, like the pig, have a certain level of cognition, mental experiences, and sentience. While we can not be sure exactly how animals perceive their environments, we do know that animals will receive certain benefits from a species-specific mental and physical stimulation. Environmental Enrichment (EE) is provided to animals to mesh with their behavioral needs. EE is recommended for all animals used by humans for food or in research.

As a practical matter, EE can take several forms. General categories of EE include stimulation of:

  • Social interactions with animals of the same species
  • Social interactions with animals of a different species (such a human-animal interactions)
  • Food-related searching and appetitive behaviors
  • Physical manipulations of materials or devices

To understand appropriate EE for a given species, one must understand what motivates a given animal. A key feature of effective EE is that it engages the captive animal.

Pigs have evolved as a scavenger and forest-plains creature. Wild and feral pigs spend a great deal of their time searching-for and consuming low-calorie foods. Hence, the pig's snout is designed as a physical tool along with a highly sensitive sensory organ (both for touch and smell). Any activity that involves rooting and manipulating will engage the pig.

Below are some pictures of EE for captive pigs. Key features of EE for the pig include:

  • It must engage the animal
  • It must not put people in danger from a health or safety perspective
  • If must not cause a sanitary problem

If you would like to send pictures or examples of EE for pigs that can be included on this page, please contact John McGlone

Here we have human interactions, and taking a pig on a walk

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lovin

Here a caged pig receives a treat of maple syrup in a syringe while the caretaker pets and scratches the pig.

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Balls and items to manipulate are used transiently by pigs; they should be replaced often to be effective. Pigs find bedding, especially straw, to be engaging.

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Contrast of pigs on bedding and those on concrete slatted floors. All pigs have enrichment from social interactions.

straw
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Perhaps the most enrichment is found in an outdoor system where piglets and sows interact freely among themselves and with their environment. Having more vegetation would be positive.

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harold
 

Laboratory of Animal Behavior, Physiology and Welfare