Updated: Sep 28, 2019
Past Experience Influences the Social Behavior of Cows (Bos taurus) and Pigs (Sus scrofa) in the Sanctuary Setting
The long-term effects of early traumatic experiences in humans and some nonhuman animals are well documented. This study explored the role of a past history on the social behavior of cows and pigs in the sanctuary setting. Subjects were cows (N=8) and pigs (N = 10) housed at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. The researchers recorded all social behavior amongst conspecifics and categorized behavior as either affiliative or agonistic. Social behavior was compared amongst animals divided into groups according to their previous setting (beef vs. dairy cows, free range vs. intensively farmed vs. neglected pet pigs). In both species, affiliation behavior showed clear differences based on past experience. Beef cows were significantly more affiliative than cows kept for dairy. Pigs raised in free-range settings showed significantly more affiliation than pigs from intensive farms or neglected pets, with the latter two groups showing no affiliation at all. Altogether, these results show a link between past experience and later social behavior, emphasizing the potential for both of these farmed species to experience long term psychological impacts as the result of traumatic experiences in the early settings they are placed in by humans.