Emotionality in growing pigs: Is the open field a valid test?

Ramona D. Donald*, Susan D. Healy, Alistair B. Lawrence, Kenneth M. D. Rutherford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The ability to assess emotionality is important within animal welfare research. Yet, for farm animals, few tests of emotionality have been well validated. Here we investigated the construct validity of behavioural measures of pig emotionality in an open-field test by manipulating the experiences of pigs in three ways. In Experiment One (pharmacological manipulation), pigs pre-treated with Azaperone, a drug used to reduce stress in commercial pigs, were more active, spent more time exploring and vocalised less than control pigs. In Experiment Two (social manipulation), pigs that experienced the open-field arena with a familiar companion were also more exploratory, spent less time behaviourally idle, and were less vocal than controls although to a lesser degree than in Experiment One. In Experiment Three (novelty manipulation), pigs experiencing the open field for a second time were less active, explored less and vocalised less than they had done in the first exposure to the arena. A principal component analysis was conducted on data from all three trials. The first two components could be interpreted as relating to the form (cautious to exploratory) and magnitude (low to high arousal) of the emotional response to open-field testing. Based on these dimensions, in Experiment One, Azaperone pigs appeared to be less fearful than saline-treated controls. However, in Experiment Two, exposure to the arena with a conspecific did not affect the first two dimensions but did affect a third behavioural dimension, relating to oro-nasal exploration of the arena floor. In Experiment Three, repeat exposure altered the form but not the magnitude of emotional response: pigs were less exploratory in the second test. In conclusion, behavioural measures taken from pigs in an open-field test are sensitive to manipulations of their prior experience in a manner that suggests they reflect underlying emotionality. Behavioural measures taken during open-field exposure can be useful for making assessments of both pig emotionality and of their welfare. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-913
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Pigs
  • Emotionality
  • Azaperone
  • Open field
  • Behaviour
  • Validation
  • FEAR


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