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Development of a behavioural test of sensory responsiveness in the growing pig

By G. D. Hutson, T. J. Ambrose, J. L. Barnett, A. J. Tilbrook

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The responses of individual growing pigs to 60 stimuli from 5 sensory categories were evaluated as an initial step in developing a behavioural measure of welfare. Pigs were exposed to the stimuli in a test pen after being trained to eat from a food box adjacent to a stimulus presentation box. The pen design allowed easy expression of approach/avoidance behaviour by the pig. Of 5 variables measured, the most robust measure of responsiveness was change in approach/avoidance distance. The strongest and most consistent aversive responses were obtained to auditory stimuli. There was little or no response to olfactory stimuli. Only 2 visual stimuli, which incorporated a black cross on a yellow background, elicited strong aversive responses. Other novel visual stimuli elicited positive responses. Responses to tactile stimuli were generally positive, mainly because they were administered by the experimenter and the pigs were familiar with handling by humans. Because there was significant variation between individual pigs, it is recommended that stimuli which elicit high responsiveness, but with little variation, should be used in future tests of differences in responsiveness between treatments that may be indicative of stressed and unstressed pigs.

Date 2000
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 66
Issue 3
Pages 187-202
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(99)00084-2
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Production, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria, 3052, Australia.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Handling
  6. Mammals
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Pigs
  9. Primates
  10. sight
  11. sounds
  12. Stress
  13. Swine
  14. tests
  15. vision
  1. peer-reviewed