Biodiversity 2 min

Social behaviour of piglets: to each his own!

This work suggests the existence of transient social styles in piglets, likely reflective of sexual dimorphism or health status.

Published on 02 June 2022

illustration Social behaviour of piglets: to each his own!

Social behaviour is a key component of pig welfare on farms, but little is known on the development of social behaviours in piglets.

This study aimed to explore social behaviours and identify early social styles in suckling piglets. Social behaviours of 68 piglets from 12 litters were scored continuously for 8 h per day at 21 and 42 days of age, and were included in a Hierarchical Clustering on Principal Components analysis to identify clusters of pigs with similar social styles.

Social nosing represented 78% of all social interactions given. Three social styles were identified: low-solicited inactive animals (inactive), active animals (active), and highly-solicited avoiders (avoiders). Belonging to a cluster was independent of age, but was influenced by sex, with females being more represented in the ‘inactive’ cluster, and males in the ‘active’ cluster, whereas both sexes were equally represented in the ‘avoider’ cluster. Stability of piglets’ allocation to specific clusters over age was high in the ‘inactive’ (59%) and ‘active’ (65%) clusters, but low in the ‘avoider’ cluster (7%). Haptoglobin and growth rate were higher in ‘active’ than ‘inactive’ pigs, and intermediate in ‘avoiders’.

Our findings suggest the existence of transient social styles in piglets, likely reflective of sexual dimorphism or health status.

Sylvie André

Scientific contact

Caroline Clouard Physiology, Environment, and Genetics for Animal and Livestock Systems (PEGASE)



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