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Do domestic pigs prefer short-term to medium-term confinement?

By M. Spinka, I. J. H. Duncan, T. M. Widowski

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A preference test was used to demonstrate that gilts have the ability to associate 2 sets of neutral cues with 2 different periods of confinement and water deprivation and to anticipate the long-term consequences of their choice in the test. 12 gilts housed in 2 large, straw-bedded pens were trained to go to 2 sets of 12 crates, positioned on each side of a choice point, for feeding twice a day. Following initial training, the 2 sets of crates were marked with contrasting visual patterns and the patterns were associated with either 30 min ('short' confinement) or 240 min ('long' confinement) of confinement in the crates after entry. During 16 days of preference testing, the gilts were sent alternately to one side or the other in the mornings and allowed to choose in the afternoons. Eight gilts chose the short confinement side more often, 2, the long confinement side more often and 2, each side an equal number of times, indicating that most gilts learned the association and preferred to be released shortly after feeding. However, gilts still chose the long confinement side on occasion, suggesting that they did not find 240 min of confinement very aversive. When the gilts were sent to the crates in the morning, their behaviour indicated that they expected to be released or confined depending on which crate they were in. The cognitive abilities of animals with respect to perception of time and anticipation of future events have important implications for their welfare.

Date 1998
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 58
Issue 3/4
Pages 221-232
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Group of Ethology, Research Institute of Animal Production, CZ-104 00 Prague-Uhrineves, Czech Republic.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Confinement
  6. Gilts
  7. Learning
  8. Mammals
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Swine
  11. tests
  1. peer-reviewed