Section: Animal Science
Topic: Agricultural sciences, Applied biological sciences

The use of pigs vocalisation structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship

10.24072/pcjournal.260 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e36.

Get full text PDF Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI

Studying human-animal interactions in domestic species and how they affect the establishment of a positive Human-Animal Relationship (HAR) may help us improve animal welfare and better understand the evolution of interspecific interactions associated with the domestication process. Understanding and describing the quality of an HAR requires information on several aspects of the animal biology and emotional states (social, spatial and postural behaviours, physiological and cognitive states). Growing evidence shows that acoustic features of animal vocalisations may be indicators of emotional states. Here, we tested the hypothesis that vocal structure may indicate the quality of HAR. At weaning, 30 piglets were positively handled by an experimenter who talked to and physically interacted with them three times a day, while 30 other piglets only received the contact necessary for proper husbandry. After two weeks, we recorded the behaviours and vocalisations produced in the presence of the static experimenter for 5 min. We repeated this test two weeks later, after a conditioning period during which human presence with additional positive contacts was used as a reward for all piglets. We hypothesized this conditioning period would lead to a positive human-piglet relationship for all piglets. As expected, piglets that were positively handled at weaning expressed a higher attraction toward the experimenter, and, after the conditioning, piglets that were not positively handled at weaning expressed a similar level of attraction than the positively handled ones. Piglets positively handled at weaning produced shorter grunts than the other ones, regardless of the context of recording, which may indicate a more positive affect. During reunions with the static experimenter, a more positive HAR was associated with a decrease in vocal reactivity to human proximity. However, during reunions with the experimenter providing additional positive contacts and over the conditioning, spatial proximity to the human systematically triggered shorter and higher pitched grunts, which may indicate a more positive emotional state. Results first show that changes in vocal structure are consistent with indicators of positive states in the presence of a human. Second, these changes are stronger when the human positively interact with the piglets, supposedly emphasizing a higher positive arousal state during these interactions. We show that vocalisation structure may be a promising indicator of the quality of human-pig relationship.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.260
Type: Research article
Keywords: Positive handling, Acoustic communication, Emotions, Mood, Behaviour, Welfare, Interspecific interactions.
Villain, Avelyne S 1, 2; Guérin, Carole 1; Tallet, Céline 1

1 PEGASE, INRAE, Institut Agro, 35590 Saint Gilles, France
2 Behavioural Ecology Group, Section for Ecology & Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2100, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
     author = {Villain, Avelyne S and Gu\'erin, Carole and Tallet, C\'eline},
     title = {The use of pigs vocalisation structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship},
     journal = {Peer Community Journal},
     eid = {e36},
     publisher = {Peer Community In},
     volume = {3},
     year = {2023},
     doi = {10.24072/pcjournal.260},
     url = {}
AU  - Villain, Avelyne S
AU  - Guérin, Carole
AU  - Tallet, Céline
TI  - The use of pigs vocalisation structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship
JO  - Peer Community Journal
PY  - 2023
VL  - 3
PB  - Peer Community In
UR  -
DO  - 10.24072/pcjournal.260
ID  - 10_24072_pcjournal_260
ER  - 
%0 Journal Article
%A Villain, Avelyne S
%A Guérin, Carole
%A Tallet, Céline
%T The use of pigs vocalisation structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship
%J Peer Community Journal
%D 2023
%V 3
%I Peer Community In
%R 10.24072/pcjournal.260
%F 10_24072_pcjournal_260
Villain, Avelyne S; Guérin, Carole; Tallet, Céline. The use of pigs vocalisation structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship. Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article  no. e36. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.260.

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.animsci.100190

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

[1] Bates, D.; Mächler, M.; Bolker, B.; Walker, S. Fitting Linear Mixed-Effects Models using lme4, arXiv (2014) | DOI

[2] Bensoussan, S.; Tigeot, R.; Lemasson, A.; Meunier-Salaün, M.-C.; Tallet, C. Domestic piglets (Sus scrofa domestica) are attentive to human voice and able to discriminate some prosodic features, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 210 (2019), pp. 38-45 | DOI

[3] Bensoussan, S.; Tigeot, R.; Meunier-Salaün, M.-C.; Tallet, C. Broadcasting human voice to piglets (Sus scrofa domestica) modifies their behavioural reaction to human presence in the home pen and in arena tests, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 225 (2020) | DOI

[4] Boersma, P. Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer, Glot International, Volume 5 (2001) no. 9/10, pp. 341-345 (

[5] Boivin, X.; Tournadre, H.; Le Neindre, P. Hand-feeding and gentling influence early-weaned lambs' attachment responses to their stockperson., Journal of Animal Science, Volume 78 (2000) no. 4 | DOI

[6] Brajon, S.; Laforest, J.-P.; Bergeron, R.; Tallet, C.; Devillers, N. The perception of humans by piglets: recognition of familiar handlers and generalisation to unfamiliar humans, Animal Cognition, Volume 18 (2015) no. 6, pp. 1299-1316 | DOI

[7] Brajon, S.; Laforest, J.-P.; Schmitt, O.; Devillers, N. The Way Humans Behave Modulates the Emotional State of Piglets, PLOS ONE, Volume 10 (2015) no. 8 | DOI

[8] Briefer, E. F. Vocal expression of emotions in mammals: mechanisms of production and evidence, Journal of Zoology, Volume 288 (2012) no. 1, pp. 1-20 | DOI

[9] Briefer, E. F. Coding for ‘Dynamic’ Information: Vocal Expression of Emotional Arousal and Valence in Non-human Animals, Coding Strategies in Vertebrate Acoustic Communication, Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2020, pp. 137-162 | DOI

[10] Briefer, E. F.; Sypherd, C. C. R.; Linhart, P.; Leliveld, L. M. C.; Padilla de la Torre, M.; Read, E. R.; Guérin, C.; Deiss, V.; Monestier, C.; Rasmussen, J. H.; Špinka, M.; Düpjan, S.; Boissy, A.; Janczak, A. M.; Hillmann, E.; Tallet, C. Classification of pig calls produced from birth to slaughter according to their emotional valence and context of production, Scientific Reports, Volume 12 (2022) no. 1 | DOI

[11] Briefer, E. F.; Vizier, E.; Gygax, L.; Hillmann, E. Expression of emotional valence in pig closed-mouth grunts: Involvement of both source- and filter-related parameters, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Volume 145 (2019) no. 5, pp. 2895-2908 | DOI

[12] Broom, D. M. A History of Animal Welfare Science, Acta Biotheoretica, Volume 59 (2011) no. 2, pp. 121-137 | DOI

[13] Brown, S. L.; Bradshaw, J. W. Communication in the domestic cat: within- and between-species, The Domestic Cat, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 37-60 | DOI

[14] Dray, S.; Dufour, A.-B. The ade4 Package: Implementing the Duality Diagram for Ecologists, Journal of Statistical Software, Volume 22 (2007) no. 4 | DOI

[15] Fox, J.; Weisberg, S. car-package: Companion to Applied Regression, GitHub, 2011 (

[16] Friel, M.; Kunc, H. P.; Griffin, K.; Asher, L.; Collins, L. M. Positive and negative contexts predict duration of pig vocalisations, Scientific Reports, Volume 9 (2019) no. 1 | DOI

[17] Gaunet, F.; Savalli, C.; Legou, T. An exploratory study on dogs’ vocalizations towards their owner and food in an unsolvable task, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 246 (2022) | DOI

[18] Gerencsér, L.; Pérez Fraga, P.; Lovas, M.; Újváry, D.; Andics, A. Comparing interspecific socio-communicative skills of socialized juvenile dogs and miniature pigs, Animal Cognition, Volume 22 (2019) no. 6, pp. 917-929 | DOI

[19] Gácsi, M.; Győri, B.; Miklósi, Á.; Virányi, Z.; Kubinyi, E.; Topál, J.; Csányi, V. Species-specific differences and similarities in the behavior of hand-raised dog and wolf pups in social situations with humans, Developmental Psychobiology, Volume 47 (2005) no. 2, pp. 111-122 | DOI

[20] Horowitz, A.; Hecht, J. Examining dog–human play: the characteristics, affect, and vocalizations of a unique interspecific interaction, Animal Cognition, Volume 19 (2016) no. 4, pp. 779-788 | DOI

[21] Jeannin, S.; Gilbert, C.; Amy, M.; Leboucher, G. Pet-directed speech draws adult dogs’ attention more efficiently than Adult-directed speech, Scientific Reports, Volume 7 (2017) no. 1 | DOI

[22] Jerolmack, C. Humans, Animals, and Play: Theorizing Interaction When Intersubjectivity is Problematic, Sociological Theory, Volume 27 (2009) no. 4, pp. 371-389 | DOI

[23] Kiley, M. The Vocalizations of Ungulates, their Causation and Function, Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, Volume 31 (2010) no. 2, pp. 171-222 | DOI

[24] Lansade, L.; Trösch, M.; Parias, C.; Blanchard, A.; Gorosurreta, E.; Calandreau, L. Horses are sensitive to baby talk: pet-directed speech facilitates communication with humans in a pointing task and during grooming, Animal Cognition, Volume 24 (2021) no. 5, pp. 999-1006 | DOI

[25] Laurijs, K. A.; Briefer, E. F.; Reimert, I.; Webb, L. E. Vocalisations in farm animals: A step towards positive welfare assessment, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 236 (2021) | DOI

[26] Lenth, R. V. Least-Squares Means: The R Package lsmeans, Journal of Statistical Software, Volume 69 (2016) no. 1 | DOI

[27] Linhart, P.; Ratcliffe, V. F.; Reby, D.; Špinka, M. Expression of Emotional Arousal in Two Different Piglet Call Types, PLOS ONE, Volume 10 (2015) no. 8 | DOI

[28] Marx, G.; Horn, T.; Thielebein, J.; Knubel, B.; von Borell, E. Analysis of pain-related vocalization in young pigs, Journal of Sound and Vibration, Volume 266 (2003) no. 3, pp. 687-698 | DOI

[29] McGregor, P. K. Quantifying Responses to Playback: One, Many, or Composite Multivariate Measures?, Playback and Studies of Animal Communication, Springer US, Boston, MA, 1992, pp. 79-96 | DOI

[30] Mignon-Grasteau, S.; Boissy, A.; Bouix, J.; Faure, J.-M.; Fisher, A. D.; Hinch, G. N.; Jensen, P.; Le Neindre, P.; Mormède, P.; Prunet, P.; Vandeputte, M.; Beaumont, C. Genetics of adaptation and domestication in livestock, Livestock Production Science, Volume 93 (2005) no. 1, pp. 3-14 | DOI

[31] Palmer, R.; Custance, D. A counterbalanced version of Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure reveals secure-base effects in dog–human relationships, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 109 (2008) no. 2-4, pp. 306-319 | DOI

[32] Petersen, V.; Simonsen, H. B.; Lawson, L. G. The effect of environmental stimulation on the development of behaviour in pigs, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 45 (1995) no. 3-4, pp. 215-224 | DOI

[33] Puppe, B.; Schön, P. C.; Tuchscherer, A.; Manteuffel, G. Castration-induced vocalisation in domestic piglets, Sus scrofa: Complex and specific alterations of the vocal quality, Applied Animal Behaviour Science (Applied Animal Behaviour Science), Volume 95, 2005 no. 1-2, pp. 67-78 | DOI

[34] R Core Team R: A language and environment for statistical computing. (3.1.1)., R Foundation for Statistical Computing (

[35] Rault, J.-L.; Truong, S.; Hemsworth, L.; Le Chevoir, M.; Bauquier, S.; Lai, A. Gentle abdominal stroking (‘belly rubbing’) of pigs by a human reduces EEG total power and increases EEG frequencies, Behavioural Brain Research, Volume 374 (2019) | DOI

[36] Rault, J.-L.; Waiblinger, S.; Boivin, X.; Hemsworth, P. The Power of a Positive Human–Animal Relationship for Animal Welfare, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Volume 7 (2020) | DOI

[37] Schmied, C.; Boivin, X.; Waiblinger, S. Stroking Different Body Regions of Dairy Cows: Effects on Avoidance and Approach Behavior Toward Humans, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 91 (2008) no. 2, pp. 596-605 | DOI

[38] Sueur, J.; Aubin, T.; Simonis, C. Seewave, A Free Modular Tool For Sound Analysis And Synthesis, Bioacoustics, Volume 18 (2008) no. 2, pp. 213-226 | DOI

[39] Tallet, C.; Linhart, P.; Policht, R.; Hammerschmidt, K.; Šimeček, P.; Kratinova, P.; Špinka, M. Encoding of Situations in the Vocal Repertoire of Piglets (Sus scrofa): A Comparison of Discrete and Graded Classifications, PLoS ONE, Volume 8 (2013) no. 8 | DOI

[40] Tallet, C.; Sy, K.; Prunier, A.; Nowak, R.; Boissy, A.; Boivin, X. Behavioural and physiological reactions of piglets to gentle tactile interactions vary according to their previous experience with humans, Livestock Science, Volume 167 (2014), pp. 331-341 | DOI

[41] Tallet, C.; Veissier, I.; Boivin, X. How does the method used to feed lambs modulate their affinity to their human caregiver?, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 119 (2009) no. 1-2, pp. 56-65 | DOI

[42] Taylor, A. M.; Reby, D. The contribution of source–filter theory to mammal vocal communication research, Journal of Zoology, Volume 280 (2010) no. 3, pp. 221-236 | DOI

[43] Titze, I. R.; Martin, D. W. Principles of Voice Production, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Volume 104 (1998) no. 3, p. 1148-1148 | DOI

[44] Turner, D. C. A review of over three decades of research on cat-human and human-cat interactions and relationships, Behavioural Processes, Volume 141 (2017), pp. 297-304 | DOI

[45] Veissier, I. Qualitative aspects of grunts vary with pigs' mental states, Peer Community in Animal Science (2023) | DOI

[46] Villain, A. S.; Guérin, C.; Noûs, C.; Tallet, C. The use of pig vocalization structure to assess the quality of human-pig relationship, Portail Data INRAE, V1 | DOI

[47] Villain, A. S.; Lanthony, M.; Guérin, C.; Tallet, C. Manipulable Object and Human Contact: Preference and Modulation of Emotional States in Weaned Pigs, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Volume 7 (2020) | DOI

[48] Weary, D. M.; Braithwaite, L. A.; Fraser, D. Vocal response to pain in piglets, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 56 (1998) no. 2-4, pp. 161-172 | DOI

[49] van de Weerd, H. A.; Day, J. E. A review of environmental enrichment for pigs housed in intensive housing systems, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 116 (2009) no. 1, pp. 1-20 | DOI

Cited by Sources: