Effects of housing and individual coping characteristics in immune responses of pigs

J.E. Bolhuis, H.K. Parmentier, W.G.P. Schouten, J.W. Schrama, V.M. Wiegant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of environmental factors on immune responses may be influenced by coping characteristics of the individuals under study. The behavioral response of pigs in a so-called Backrest early in life seems indicative of their coping style at a later age. The present study investigated the effects of housing, barren versus enriched, and coping style, as assessed by Backtest classification, on immune responses of pigs. Pigs were housed either without a rooting substrate (barren housing) or in identical pens enriched with deep straw bedding (enriched housing) from birth. During the suckling period, pigs were subjected to the Backtest. Each pig was restrained on its back for 1 min and the resistance (i.e., number of escape attempts) was scored. Pigs classified as 'high-' or 'low-resisting' (HR and LR, respectively) were immunized with di-nitrophenyl-conjugated keyhole limpet haemocyanin (DNP-KLH) at 9 weeks of age. Blood samples were drawn before immunization (Day 0) and weekly thereafter, until Day 35. KLH-specific lymphocyte proliferation following immunization was higher for HR pigs than for LR pigs. Housing did not affect proliferative responses. Housing and coping style interacted in their effect on KLH-specific humoral immune responses. LR pigs from barren housing showed higher KLH-specific antibody titers than LR pigs from enriched housing. Differently housed HR pigs, however, showed similar antibody titers. These findings support other research indicating that individual coping styles of pigs are reflected in their immune responses. More important, the present study demonstrates that effects of housing on humoral immune responses of pigs may differ for pigs with divergent coping styles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-296
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • growing pigs
  • behavioral-characteristics
  • environmental enrichment
  • physiological-responses
  • cortisol concentration
  • social-status
  • housed pigs
  • stress
  • disease
  • susceptibility


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of housing and individual coping characteristics in immune responses of pigs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this