First off, I would like to say that pigs have been a new adventure for us on the ranch. March will be 1 year of pigs being a part of our lives. Also, we buy our pigs at around 60 lbs and feed them up from there. So, I am not pretending to be any kind of pig expert. There is still MUCH to be learned about them and we are always researching and learning new things.
Last March when we went to pick up our first pigs, I was watching them and noticed some had curled tails and some had straight tails. So, I asked the lady who raises them why this was. She told me the straight tail was a sign of a calm, relaxed pig. While a curled tail was a sign of an excited or stressed pig. The people who raise our pigs have been doing it for decades on their farm and they take exceptional care of their breeding stock. I just believed her and took it to heart that, that must be the truth for all pigs.
Well come to find out the history of a pig’s tail is much more complicated than that! And the truth is that there is not a whole lot of research to either agree or disagree with her statement. Which was simply made from years of observing pig’s behaviors and their tails reactions.
For starters I should comment that our pig’s tails are not docked. I was not even aware that happens to commercial pigs, but it does, and they do it because if not pigs will bite each other tails when fighting in their small pens. Because our pigs live with lots of room to roam, they do not fight, so the tail is not a problem for us.
Now from the research I have done since realizing the vastness of this subject, I have gathered that different breeds have different types of tails. Our pigs are a cross breed of half Berkshire and then a mixture of Berkshire, Durroc and Yorkshire. I am not an expert on pig breeds neither, so I am going to leave that subject alone.
What I have been able to confirm through research is that pigs’ tails certainly change based on how they are behaving and emotions they are feeling. Either positive or negative. If you are like me and have never spent much time around pigs, I will share with you they are easily excited and also very curious. Anything new makes them run away then turn around and come sniff and bite it if they can. They also do not have very good eyesight, but they know where the hot wire is and even if you remove it they are hesitant to go over that area.
What we have observed about our pigs is when they are getting used to us their tails are curled when they first come up. Then as they become to associate us with food and treats their tails stay straight as they rush over for treats and pats. To me that brings an association of positive happy behavior with a straight tail, and a curled tail a sign of excitement or stress of the unknown. Now, that might simply be our pigs, maybe it’s something to do with their breed, or a learned behavior from their momma. I honestly do not know, and without some serious research being done I am not sure how we will ever know.
I just know that our pigs live happy lives out in the timber with the fresh ground to rut, the yummy nuts to chomp and plenty of room to play around as nature intended.