Comparison of Agonistic Interactions Between Different Test Batches in the Joint Log-Lift Task with Pigs


  • Tessa Parker University of Vienna



Although cooperative behavior in non-human animals has been extensively studied in recent years, few studies have focused specifically on farm animals and many require training the animals to engage with an artificial task, potentially limiting the biological relevance of such studies. The joint log-lift task was developed as a biologically relevant method to study cooperative behavior in domesticated pigs [1]. In a prior study utilizing the joint log-lift task, domestic pigs were shown capable of coordinating their actions to simultaneously lift a log in a box in order to access treats [2]. In the current study, the aim was to use the joint log-lift task to investigate the effect of cooperative behavior on the prosocial and affective state of pigs. The study was conducted using a total of 24 pigs split into 4 groups of 6. The study began when the pigs were 5 weeks of age and included a habituation phase designed to offer the pigs the opportunity to learn to jointly use the joint log-lift apparatus prior to beginning the testing phase. However, during the habituation phase the success rate was surprisingly low with the pigs managing only 13 successful joint log-lifts over the course of 10 days. This contrasts with a previous study (unpublished) with an identical habituation phase in which the pigs jointly lifted the log approximately 783 times over the course of 10 days [2]. One potential explanation for the difference in success rates in the habituation phase between the current study and the previous study is that there were differing levels of agonistic interactions among the pigs between the two batches.


Behavioral analysis of video recordings of the first two days of habituation for both the earlier successful study and for the current study are ongoing and seek to determine whether differences in the level of agonistic behaviors between the pigs of the two studies could explain the differences in performance during the habituation period. The results of this analysis could provide novel insights into the factors that influence cooperation in pigs and possibly other species. 



[1] J. L. Rault, I. Camerlink, S. Goumon, R. Mundry, and M. Špinka, “The joint log-lift task: A social foraging paradigm,”Frontiers in Veterinary Science, vol. 8. 2021.

[2] K. Brosche, J. McGetrick, J. L. Rault, “Team play versus solo success: Comparing domestic pigs’ performance in a cooperative and a non-cooperative task,” 7th European Student Conference on Behaviour & Cognition. Nov. 6–7. 2021. Budapest, Hungary.