Pigs learn to play video games with their snouts

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Pigs learn to play video games with their snouts

The research into animal intelligence has revealed fascinating information into pigs ability to learn.

A team of scientists at Pennsylvania State University taught pigs how to play video games.

The four pigs - Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony and Ivory - were taught to play a game using their snouts on a joystick. The joystick is attached to a cursor and, if the pigs move the cursor to a wall they would have food released from a dispenser. They apparently enjoyed the game so much that, when the food broke, the pigs continued to play after encouragement from researchers.

"This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them," lead author Dr Candace Croney said.

The research team also thought that the fact the pigs could play video games at all - since they are far-sighted animals with no hands or thumbs - was "remarkable". The researchers were satisfied that the attempts were not random chance but actually focused effort. That means that "to some extent, all acquired the association between the joystick and cursor movement".

Out of the two Yorkshire pigs, Hamlet, was better at the game than Omelette, but both struggled when it got harder - hitting the single target just under half the time. The Panepinto micro pigs had a bigger gamer skill gap - while Ivory was able to hit one-wall targets 76% of the time, Ebony could only do it 34% of the time.

Kate Daniels, from Willow Farm in Worcestershire, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while the scientists might have been impressed, "I don't think this will come as a surprise to anyone that works with pigs". She added: "They're not playing Minecraft - but that they can manipulate a situation to get a reward is no surprise at all." She paraphrased a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill: "Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, and pigs look you right in the eye."

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