How to Tell if a Pig is Happy: 10 Signs to Look For

Pigs are a joy to raise, especially if you can keep them happy in the process. Unlike dogs and cats, pigs have unique body language and sounds which means it can sometimes be hard to tell if they’re content, upset, hungry, or angry. 

Luckily, many visible signs indicate a pig is happy, including panting, soft grunting, playful barks, tail wagging, and other behaviors.

Most happy pig noises are low-pitched, and a happy pig will come across as curious and calm, rather than alarmed or aggressive. Keep reading below to learn some of the telltale signs that your pig is happy and content. 

1.Pigs Are Usually Happy When They Pant

If you’ve ever had a dog, you might associate panting with heat exhaustion, and this can sometimes be the case in pigs, too. If a pig is panting hard on a scorching hot day with no water in sight, they are most likely overheated. However, if there is no source of heat, and the pig is hydrated, a soft panting noise is usually associated with happiness. 

Soft, breathy panting is a sign of contentment in pigs. If your pig is protected from overheating, panting is usually a sign that they’re delighted to see you, and not a warning sign. 

Here are some signs that a pig might be panting because of heat exhaustion rather than happiness (Source: Mini Pig Info): 

  • Lethargy 
  • Eating less food 
  • Excessive thirstiness
  • Dry, “crispy” gums
  • Glazed eyes
  • Drooling from the mouth
  • Bright red skin around the eyes and tongue 
  • Worried or anxious expression on the face
  • Other overt signs of distress

If any of these other signs are present along with panting, then you need to get your pig to a shady place as soon as possible and cool them down with a hose or find some other way to bring their temperature down. If your pig isn’t displaying any of these other signs of distress but is still lightly panting, the panting is usually a sign of happiness. 

A lone pig is happiest surrounded by other Pigs, to know why you shouldn’t raise one pig see my post.

The best way to make sure that your pig is panting out of happiness rather than heat distress is to make sure that your pig always has access to clean, cool water, plenty of shade, a mud hole to wallow in, and a place to get completely out of the sun if they choose. 

2.Pigs Are Usually Happy When They’re Grunting

Pigs often vocalize a series of grunts, usually to each other. Unless they are agitated or they’re communicating amongst themselves, pigs are usually a very quiet species (like most prey animals). However, when they are grunting, pigs can be communicating a wide variety of emotional expressions. 

Generally speaking, the lower the volume of a pig’s grunts, the greater the chances are that the pig is vocalizing out of contentment or happiness. If a pig begins to grunt more loudly, however, it can be an indication that the pig is either agitated or excited. 

Soft grunts can usually be heard from a pig when scratching its back in a particularly good spot or rubbing its belly. You can think of this grunt as the equivalent of the dog groaning in pleasure when you rub its belly or scratch between its ears and a cat purring while being petted.

Lack of grunting can also give clues about the level of a pig’s happiness. Studies have shown that male pigs are less inclined to grunt if their environment is not stimulating.

So, if your pig is unusually quiet, adding some toys to their pen or enclosure can help keep them from becoming unhappy and bored when they’re left alone. Even pigs raised as livestock will grow more efficiently and be more content if they have something to do. (Source: Silicon Republic)

To know other reasons why your Pigs are not growing check my post out here.

Here are a few toys you can add to your pig’s environment to make sure that they’re always grunting because of happiness: 

  • Balls
  • Mounted brushes
  • Tubes and tunnels
  • Biting and chewing toys
  • Playing chains
  • Jute bags

Along with providing them plenty of toys, playing music for pigs can also help keep them entertained and prevent them from developing destructive or mischievous behaviors due to boredom.

For other ways to keep your Pigs entertained see my post here, it’s about Chickens but Pigs will enjoy the toys just the same.

3.Pigs Can Squeal as a Sign of Happiness

Squealing is a vocalization that is frequently associated with pigs, and squealing can mean several different things when a pig is communicating. Terrified squeals can be the result of being chased, but squeals from a pig when the slop or feed bucket comes around are usually just a sign that the pig is excited to eat and is begging for food. 

This famous oink-oink-oink noise is also associated with curiosity. Scientists have found that pigs that are more curious about investigating their environment are more likely to vocalize than those who aren’t. (Source: Daily Mail

However, it’s important to remember that pigs don’t only squeal when they’re happy. If a pig is startled or hurt, it may start up a squealing noise that sounds more like a pig’s version of screams or shrieks rather than a calm and happy oink.

This frightened squeal can usually be heard when pigs are scared during the slaughtering process or when they are being separated from their mothers. 

Knowing how to interpret a pig’s happiness means assessing its immediate environment and its interactions with it, not just the sounds the pig is making. If a pig is trotting towards you squealing when you’re bringing treats, chances are you’re hearing a happy squeal.

If a pig is running away from you and squealing, you’ll know the pig is scared or spooked. After you get to know your pigs well, you’ll easily be able to tell the difference between the two noises based on the environment and frequency. 

Do your Pigs fight? Find out why they are fighting and what to do about it in my post here.

4.Pigs Make Greeting Vocalizations When They’re Happy

Along with their normal repertoire of grunts and squeal, pigs have several more subtle vocalizations that they use when greeting either people or each other. One of these sounds is a low sound that sounds sort of like he-hon, he-hon, he-hon, like a donkey braying under its breath. 

This sound is a sound of positive greeting amongst pigs, so if your pig approaches you making this soft, rhythmic noise, it is an indication that the pig accepts you as part of the sounder and is greeting you in the same way that they would greet another pig that they like. 

5.Pigs Sometimes Bark When They’re Playing

Another vocalization that people who aren’t familiar with pigs might not realize they make is a barking noise. Like many pig noises, barking can mean several very different (and contradictory) things, depending on the bark’s context and the pig’s environment. 

Why Pigs Bark

  • A single sharp bark: Pigs might let out a single bark as a vocalization that signifies surprise or shock. If the pig feels threatened or is known to be aggressive, this can also lead to a reactive bite
  • A series of sharp barks: Pigs will sometimes use barking as a sound that indicates that they are nervous or uncomfortable with something in their environment, such as a dog or a person they don’t recognize. Sharp barks can indicate suspicion and may lead to aggression or the pig running away from whatever is stimulating it to bark.
  • A squealing bark: A high-pitched squealing bark is usually an indication that a pig feels very threatened and will attack if approached.
  • Piglets barking: Like many young animals, piglets may bark at each other to practice different vocalizations and to “play pretend” while they are running around in the yard. This is one of the few barks where the pigs may be showing a sign of contentment and happiness rather than suspicion or distress.
  • Protective bark: A mother sow may make a deeper barking noise (that sounds like ha-ha-ha) when she is investigating why one of her piglets is barking to reinforce their warning call. Adult pigs will sometimes use this vocalization when they are playing with each other, too. 

Barking can sometimes indicate happiness in pigs, but it depends on what the pig is doing when they’re barking. If they’re being harassed by a predator or approached by a stranger, a bark is usually an indication of alert agitation.

But if pigs are running around barking amongst themselves, it’s probably an indication they’re only playing and enjoying themselves. Reading the body language of the pigs in conjunction with their noises is key to determining the meaning behind the sounds they make. 

Pigs are omnivores like humans but can they be healthy on a Vegan diet? For the facts check out my post.

6.Pigs Wag Their Tails When They’re Happy

A physical sign that a pig is happy that their owners can watch out for is tail-wagging. While some livestock pigs may have their tails docked as piglets to prevent them from cannibalistic practices in tight quarters due to boredom or agitation.

Pigs raised on hobby farms or as household pets usually have an intact tail. Like the wagging tail of a dog, a pig’s wagging tail is usually an indication that they’re very happy with their surroundings. 

For example, you may see a pig happily wagging its tail as it eats its food or treats or runs up to you to get personal attention like scratches and pets. If you see your pig’s tail wagging, it’s generally a sign that you’re doing something right. (Source: Pigs Peace Sanctuary)

7.Pigs Dig and Wallow When They’re Happy

One of the things that makes pigs most happy in the world is to dig and wallow around in the mud, so if you see pigs digging and wallowing, chances are they’re happy as clams in the mud. 

Not only does wallowing make pigs extremely happy, but having a good wet wallow is vital for their welfare. Pigs lack functional sweat glands like humans, so cooling their body with cool mud and water is one of the only ways they can regulate their temperature and prevent their delicate skin from being exposed to both sunburn and insect pests. 

Wallows aren’t just a hot weather necessity, either. In the wild, pigs will happily dig and wallow throughout the year, no matter what the outdoor temperatures are. (Source: RSPCA)

Pigs can wallow by standing immobile in a mud or water wallow and letting the liquid cool their bodies, or they can actively wallow by digging at the base of the wallow and rolling around in the mud. 

Do you use shavings or straw for your Pigs, does it even matter? Yes, it does, find out all you need to know in my post.

8.Pigs Roll Around And Play When Happy

If you see pigs rolling around, this is usually a good visual indicator that the pigs are happy. Why?

Why Do Pigs Roll Around In Mud?

  • Wallowing: Pigs that are rolling around may be attempting to wallow. If they have access to a wallow, this usually means they’re happy. However, if they’re trying to roll around in the grass on a hot day, it may mean they’re getting hot and need access to a wallowing spot.
  • Play: Pigs will often roll around with each other while just running around and wrestling or roughhousing. Seeing piglets roll around is common and should not be seen as an indication of anything other than playfulness unless there are other signs of distress present. 
  • Scratches: Pigs that are hand-reared and are used to human contact may get into the habit of rolling over onto their back to get belly scratches. In this case, the pig may not be happy until you break down and scratch their belly, but once you do, you’ll be dealing with one happy pig. 

Generally, if you see pigs rolling around, it should be seen as a sign of happiness and not distress unless the pigs don’t have access to a wallow, and it’s hot outside. In this case, attempting to wallow and roll around in dry grass can be a desperate attempt to cool off. 

9.Pig Giving Kisses Mean They’re Happy

Ever heard the expression “to kiss a pig”? Well, pigs actually do give kisses, though not generally in the way that people do. As an expression of happiness and contentment, a pig that wants to be stroked or scratched may press its nose into a person’s body or hands. This “kiss” is usually an indication that the pig is happy and looking for some positive attention. 

Pigs don’t usually kiss or lick people with their mouths—or at least as not as often as they do with their noses—but sometimes pigs do lick their owners. While it’s a rare occurrence, if your pig gives you a real mouth kiss, it indicates extreme affection. (Source: Pet Pig World

Some pigs are more affectionate than others, and it is more likely that a pig that has been bottle-fed or has spent a lot of time around humans will be more physically affectionate than a pig raised mostly around other pigs. In fact, pigs sometimes pick up the habit of licking from being kissed by their owners! 

Want to know how to keep your Pigs warm during the Winter? It isn’t too complicated and you can find out everything in my post.

10.Pigs Will Cuddle When They’re Happy

Another physical sign that a pig is happy is when the pig wants to cuddle with you. Pigs that are raised as pets are not shy about approaching their owner and either leaning on them or even crawling into their laps to “hog” all the attention. 

Since pigs will not get this close to human beings unless they are very comfortable with human contact, it is rare to see pigs do this unless they have been raised in a kind manner, and they are very happy with their handlers. Some pigs are also more affectionate and cuddly than others—like any other animal, pigs are individuals, and some are more responsive to physical contact and petting than others. 

One way to ensure that a pig grows up to be cuddly and affectionate with people is to make sure that it gets plenty of human contact from the time it is a newborn piglet until it is an adult. By being exposed to many different people and getting treats and cuddles from all of them, you can end up with a pig that is happy in the presence of anybody it thinks might be willing to give up a belly rub or a treat.

Another way to keep pigs cuddly—especially male pigs—is to castrate them. Castration helps to prevent male pig aggression associated with sexual maturity. (Source: US National Library of Medicine)

Know what foods are toxic to Pigs? Whether your raising Pigs as livestock or as pets its important to know what foods they can eat, learn more in my post.

Pigs Give Lots of Signals When They Happy

Pigs are complicated and intelligent animals. As a result, they have a dazzling array of visual and auditory cues that they use to communicate with each other and with human beings. Therefore, people have to pay attention to the environment of the pig, the context of its signals, the volume of its signals, and the signals themselves to deduce what the pig is feeling or trying to say. 

One of the easiest ways to make sure that your pigs are happy is to provide them with all of the things that keep pigs happy—namely plenty of delicious food, a cool, wet space to wallow in, comfortable bedding, enrichment items to keep them from becoming bored, social contact, and a shady place to rest. If a pig’s owner provides these things, they’re sure to end up with a happy pig at the end of the day.

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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