Mini Pig Communications and Behaviors


Mini Pig Communications
What Is Your Mini Pig Telling You?
Pigs have complex social structures and communication. To communicate with each other, they use body language, vocal communications, and scent/pheromones. Our sense of smell cannot pick up most of their species specific signals, so we focus more on the body and vocal cues.
Vocalizations can be grunts, squeals, barks, huffs, “hot panting”, screams, arfs, and a whole lot that are hard to type! Body Language includes posture, movement, lack of movement, direction of movement, expressions, head movements, physical contact, closeness, eye contact, etc. 
Pigs vocalize for all the same reasons we do. If they are happy, sad, lonely, hurt, scared, hungry, demanding, submitting, challenging, warning, terrified, making friends, greeting friends or family, searching for friends, mourning, excited, bored, bonding, enjoying company, warning family members of danger, agitated or quite simply content. They have distinct vocalizations for pain, stress, food anticipation, farrowing (giving birth), nursing (they call their babies for milk and sing to them as they nurse), they vocalize when they are in heat, greeting a mate, when they are isolated or startled. Several studies have been done to understand and evaluate swine vocalizations that also apply to our mini pigs. Often times, vocalizations alone will only tell you so much. Combine the vocalizations with the body language, environment, and other tell-tale signs coming from the pig to put together the whole picture. 
In general, high pitched vocalizations are stress related while low pitched vocalizations are comfortable/relaxed communications between loved ones. A pig that whines, screeches or shrills is not happy (stress, agitation, challenging). A pig that coos or grunts rhythmically is content and relaxed surrounded by those he trusts and loves. 
Angry, Agitated, or Aggressive Vocalizations
  • Jaw chomping or clacking    
  • Teeth grinding (can also be a pleasant response)    
  • Screeching with a shrill tone as if the pig is screeching AT you, forcefully telling you something 

Happy, Excited or Content Vocalizations      

  • Grunting: Pigs grunt to greet each other, talk to their piglets, communicate with loved ones, and simply to chatter about their day. This is a very content communication, as they chat and bond.
  • Oof Oof or Ahh Ahhh Ahhh: Greeting that can sound like laughing or “monkey noises”. This is a mellow, soft sound. It’s not particularly loud, it does not have sharp tones or fluctuations. It’s a level noise that they seem to push out with effort to greet their loved ones. If you get this greeting, consider yourself CHERISHED! My pigs do this often if we’ve been apart for several hours and they get excited to see me again.·      
  • Hot panting: This is another family greeting pigs offer to their most trusted family members. They will come close to you, or a body part such as a foot, and huff huff huff blowing hot air on you. They are adorable when they curl their lips just-so. The body language shows a pig completely at ease and relaxed. He has full trust in you and enjoys your companionship.   
  •  Teeth grinding (can also be a response to pain or agitation). Pigs often grind their teeth when they are relaxing and content. Pay attention to the timing and body language. Is it meal time? Is he pacing? Are his eyes darting around the room? Is he starting at his arch nemesis (another pet? a person?) He’s not happy. Is he getting a belly rub or snuggled up under your favorite comforter? Then he’s very happy…. My little Olivia would grind her teeth when she was very tired. I didn’t feel it was a stress response, but that she was self-comforting to sooth herself to sleep. 

Fear or Stress Vocalizations       

  • Screaming: These have been recorded at decibels rivaling a jet engine. Pigs and piglets will squeal/scream “at the top of their lungs” from pain or fear. When a pig screams from pain or fear, he will also try to get away from the trigger. His body language will be tense, his movements will be quick, jerky, sporadic (think of a chipmunk). He is in extreme distress and feels as if he is fighting for his life. If given the chance, he will flee and will elude capture to the best of his abilities. There is no mistaking this noise, or what it means. The typical questions is “How do I stop my pig from screaming?”. The easy answer is: take away the trigger. Restraint often triggers a fear response in these animals. Lifting them off the ground feels life threatening to them. Placing them in a bathtub can be very intimidating and overwhelming to their senses. View the world from their point of view, keep them calm and relaxed, slowly introduce them to new things and sensations, give them time to process and to trust, and they will not feel the need to scream out of fear or stress.   
  • Bark or “arf”: This is a quick, sharp sound they make when they are startled or spooked. It’s a very short sound that may be single or repeated several times in quick succession. A very similar sound can be made when the pig or piglet is feeling excited and playful. Cue in on tone and body language to understand if your pig is excited or spooked.  

Vocalizations of Demand

  • Screeching      
  • Screaming  
  • Hollering 
This is not necessarily aggressive or challenging, but it certainly isn’t the communication of a well behaved, well-mannered pig-child.  Whichever form it takes, these vocalizations are forceful, LOUD, and long. The pig wants something, and expects to get it. He will gladly use his voice to convey his need. The body language on a demanding pig is confident, tall, head and eyes forward, usually making eye contact, head up. He has something to say and he wants YOU to hear it. His movements are precise and organized, he is in complete control. He may follow you around, pace at the baby gate, or wreak havoc on the house in his frustration. This is VERY different body language and behavior from a scared or fearful pig. 
Pig behavior & communications can be broken down into three categories
  1. Dominant and/or Challenging    
  2. Submissive and/or Compliant
  3. Fearful, Anxiety and/or Reactive 

To understand what a pig is telling you, you first need to understand their perspective of the world. Pigs live in a tight knit social structure within their family. There is a leader that has earned the right to protect the herd. This leader is respected and trusted with the welfare of the herd. If for some reason a pig believes this leader to be lacking, s/he will feel obligated to make a challenge, to overtake the leader. A weak leader is not good for the herd, a weak leader is a vulnerability for the entire family. A weak leader causes stress and strain within the herd. In short – YOU need to be your pig’s leader, and you need to be a consistent, strong, worthy leader. If you have earned it, your pig will trust you and respect you. If he has any question of your leadership, he very well may challenge you – not out of spite or hate, but out of concern for the family’s safety. Always remember a pig lives the life of a prey animal. At the very core of their existence is self-preservation. While we are happily at the top of the food chain with no predators, and no obvious threats to our life, pigs do not feel that same luxury. When working with your pig, bring lots of compassion and patience. It’s not easy being a pig in a human’s world!  

Dominant, Challenging
There are several reasons for a pig to behave in a dominant or challenging manner. When a stranger comes to the house, the pig may perceive him as a threat or a new herd member, one who needs to be challenged in order to position himself in the correct place of hierarchy, with the strongest and most abled pigs (or humans) being higher up in order to protect the weaker family/herd members from danger and outside threats.  
Body Language    
  • Tight, stiff, body language  
  • Confident posture      
  • Quick, jerky movements       
  • Moving head first TOWARDS another
  • Head swiping (swinging the head to the side in a threatening manner)      
  • Chomping the jaws or teeth together·      
  •  Foaming at the mouth  
Submissive and/or Compliant 
A submissive pig is a relaxed pig. These pigs acknowledge and respect their place in the family. They understand you are the leader in charge, and they are happy to have someone to protect them. When these pigs are asked to move, they move. They are well trained and follow instruction well. When pigs are comfortable with a leader overseeing their safety, they have loose body language. They happily greet their family when they come home and may even spin around gleefully with the zoomies. 
Body Language       
  • Relaxed       
  • Slow moving, care free      
  • Unobservant       
  • Ears forward listening, nose up sniffing as they approach for treats      
  • Casually graze in the yard
  • Playful moments of sprinting, galloping, spinning, or zooming around
  • Relatively quiet, with happy contented grunts or greetings  

Fearful, Anxiety, or Reactive

Pigs that are stressed will show signs of fear and anxiety. These pigs will be very reactive to your movements. If your pig is fearful, it’s important to work towards gaining trust and building confidence. Do not punish a pig for fearful behavior. Fearful pigs do not mean to harm, but will lash out if they feel they need to protect themselves. Work carefully with a fearful pig to avoid further damaging trust or provoking aggressive behavior. 
Body Language      
  • Quick movements      
  • Loud squealing, squawking, and agitated grunts in protest      
  • Erratic movements when asked to move       
  • Forward facing posture
  • Eyes focused on one person, does not break eye contact
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