No Surprise Here: Pigs Can Learn to Play Video Games

The Yorkshire pigs in the study, named Omelet and Hamlet, outgrew their pen after 12 weeks. (Eston Martz / Pennsylvania State University)

Pigs Can Learn to Play Video Games When Tempted by Treats

by Theresa Machemer/

There are three bright blue walls displayed on a black screen. Move the cursor to a wall, the computer goes bloop! and a treat pops out. After some success, one wall disappears. With only two walls, it’s a little bit harder. Then, after more bloops and treats, the screen drops down to one blue wall.

For a pig moving the joystick with its snout, it takes serious skills to get the cursor to that one blue wall.

But four pigs, named Omelet, Hamlet, Ivory and Ebony could do just that. A paper published on February 11 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology documents how the four pigs at Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science learned to play the simple video game. In many cases, the pigs performed significantly better than if they were moving the joystick at random. It is the first peer-reviewed paper to come out of pig-gamer research that has been running since the 1990s, Isaac Schultz reports for Gizmodo, and it is one of many examples of pigs’ formidable intelligence.

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  1. Pigs are bizarre. I’m pretty sure they earned the title ‘evil” from biological pathogens sure, but also because they are not stupid, and that scared some folks. They can do stuff and calculate stuff, that there is no answer for but humor, hate, and greed. Human traits. They can plan. They carry grudges, and they have aspirations of freedom, the most reluctant domesticated species, exemplified by their ability to escape and evade. In the woods of the south, I actually fear them more than the black bear of the north. The bear is more docile and reluctant to calculate. Pigs are gamers. Certain ones are very good.

    • Remember Orwell’s Animal Farm! Or the old favorite; This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home. Pigs are special in our literature; unless you are a Muslim or a Jew. Then they get even more empowered, but as evil or unclean. Maybe, the more pigs are perceived as intelligent, the less folks will want to eat them. Having a sausage, egg and cheese bagel is perfect, but delicious, conundrum.

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