In this study, we addressed the social attentiveness, as well as the phenomenon of social facilitation and inhibition in the context of a positive human–pig relationship. Specifically, we investigated whether the social rank of an experienced pig (termed “demonstrator”) has an effect on the attentiveness of the remaining pen mates (N = 40) when they observe the demonstrator being gently handled by a stockperson from behind an acrylic panel. We found that pigs preferentially attended to dominant demonstrators rather than subordinate demonstrators during their gentle handling sessions with the stockperson. Additionally, we also examined whether the presence of a demonstrator pig of different social rank, who previously established a positive relationship with the stockperson in presence of conspecifics, affects the behavior and motivation of their pen mates to positively interact with the stockperson. To test for the effect of the presence and demonstrator’s social rank on pen mate interactions with the stockperson, we evaluated the behavior of domestic pigs (N = 65) toward the stockperson using a human-approach test in their home-pen. Pigs showed a decrease in their motivation to positively interact with the stockperson when a socially dominant demonstrator was present, behaving similarly to animals receiving minimal human contact (control group). Overall, they exhibited a greater latency to physical contact, a lower acceptance of stroking, and spent more time looking at the stockperson compared to pigs exposed to subordinate demonstrators. Taken together, these findings expand our current understanding of pigs’ cognition and social behavior, and the nature of social attention bias in farm animals. Our findings indicate that positive handling of previously selected subordinate demonstrators seems to be the best strategy to reduce the level of fear in large groups of pigs.
|Author Address||Departamento de Ciencias Animales, Facultad de Agronomia e Ingenieria Forestal, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago 7820436, Chile.email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org|
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