The Purdue University researchers in the US say they have successfully trained four pigs to manipulate a joystick and control a cursor on a monitor.
Purdue University’s Prof Candace Croney said: “Potentially there may be more pigs are capable of learning and understanding and responding to than we have previously envisaged."
Writing in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Croney and co-author Dr Sarah Boysen report how they used tasty treats to train the pigs to move the joysticks using their snouts while watching a computer screen.
The researchers then presented the quartet with a video game in which the pigs had to use the joystick to manoeuvre a cursor until it collided with one of four wall-like structures on screen. Upon collision, the game made a “bloop” sound and the pig received a treat.
The more successful the pig was, the fewer the number of walls presented in the game.
The team analysed the last 50 trials by each pig on the three-, two- and one-wall scenarios in turn, determining how often the pig hit a target wall with their first cursor movement.
Hamlet and Omelette, three-month-old male Yorkshire pigs, were able to complete the task better than chance when presented with two walls or a single wall on screen, but not when presented with three walls.
Unfortunately, they had to quit gaming because like many gamers they got too fat to fit into the constraints of the test pen.
The pigs didn’t do as well overall at the game as previously found for rhesus monkeys but were much tastier.