Coping personality type and environment enrichment affect aggression at weaning in pigs

L. Melotti, M. Oostindjer, J.E. Bolhuis, S. Held, M. Mendl

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65 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the effects of different environmental treatments and personality types on aggression at mixing of newly weaned domestic piglets. From birth to weaning, 16 litters were housed with their dams in either barren (B) or larger, substrate-enriched (E) environments. At 15 days old, piglets were classified as ‘high’ (HR) or ‘low resistant’ (LR) in a manual restraint test (backtest), which is thought to identify proactive (HR) and reactive (LR) stress coping strategies that may reflect different personality types. At 30 days old, 128 piglets were weaned, relocated and mixed into 32 pens comprising two HR and two LR unfamiliar pigs, balanced for sex and weaning weight. Eight B and eight E groups changed environmental condition whereas the others remained in the same type of environment. Number and duration of fights, fight outcomes and unilateral fighting were scored for 5 h post-mixing and skin lesions were counted before and 5 h, 1 day and 2 days after mixing. On the day following weaning, fighting and also exploratory and oral manipulative behaviours were measured for 6 h. Generalized Linear Mixed Model analyses suggested interactions between pre-weaning environment, post-weaning environment and personality type. Overall, pre-weaning E pigs had longer fights at weaning and mixing (P = 0.01) and fought for longer on the next day (P = 0.02) than pre-weaning B pigs, and inflicted more skin lesions (P = 0.02). Post-weaning enrichment did not affect fighting at mixing but reduced the time spent fighting the next day (P = 0.03). Personality had subtle and environment-dependent effects on fighting, and influenced the “structure” rather than the amount of aggressive behaviour. HR pigs, for instance, bullied (i.e. chased surrendering pigs) more often (P = 0.009) and their fighting behaviour was less affected by their relative body weight than that of LR pigs. Post-weaning E pigs showed relatively higher levels of exploratory behaviour (P = 0.02) and less oral manipulative behaviour (P = 0.04) than post-weaning B pigs. In particular, switching from a good quality environment (E) to a worse quality one (B) at weaning decreased exploratory behaviour on the next day, especially for LR pigs, who also tended to fight with and orally manipulate their pen mates more in that condition, and seemed to be more affected by a deterioration of the environment. Overall, pre-weaning enrichment increased aggression after weaning whereas post-weaning enrichment reduced it, and personality type related to some aspects of fighting behaviour
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-153
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • individual behavioral-characteristics
  • growing pigs
  • social stress
  • physiological-responses
  • rearing conditions
  • domesticated pigs
  • unacquainted pigs
  • housing condition
  • young-pigs
  • piglets

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