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Physiol Behav. 1994 Jan;55(1):39-46.

Individual behavioral and physiological strategies in pigs.

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Department of Animal Husbandry, Agricultural University Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Previous experiments demonstrated consistent individual behavioral differences in pigs. Some showed a more active behavioral response (so-called A/R pigs), others a more passive behavioral response (so-called NA/NR pigs). In the present study we selected 32 A/R and 32 NA/NR individuals and tested them individually in an open field at 3 (OF1) and 8 weeks of age (OF2). Individual response patterns were remarkably consistent between OF1 and OF2. While more A/R than NA/NR pigs made escape attempts, the A/R ones vocalized less, and were less inhibited to approach novel objects in OF1 and OF2, although they spent less time in exploring these objects than NA/NR pigs. Cortisol (CS) level after OF1 increased in A/R pigs but did not change in NA/NR ones, while CS level in OF2 remained constant in A/R pigs but decreased in NA/NR pigs. CS response to ACTH1-39 was measured at 3 and 8 weeks of age but did not differ between types. Basal CS level was higher in NA/NR than in A/R pigs and accompanied by adrenal hypertrophy. Mean heart rate (HR) was higher of A/R pigs compared to NA/NR ones in two backtests. HR of A/R pigs substantially increased (23.9 bpm = 15.5%) in reaction to the novel object in OF2, while HR of NA/NR ones only slightly increased (4.5 bpm = 2.9%), or even decreased (bradycardia). A/R pigs had more often heart deviations than NA/NR ones. The present study demonstrates that the two behavioral strategies of pigs are characterized by consistent differences in behavioral, physiological, and endocrine responses to conflict situations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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