Savaging in ethology is a term which usually refers to mother animals attacking their new-born offspring, sometimes fatally. The term is often applied to domestic pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus) as the behaviour can be prevalent in this species; it is more frequent in gilts than in second or later parity sows. Some gilt attacks on the newborn piglets are non-fatal, while others involve the death and eventual consumption of the piglets by the mother. It is estimated that 50% of piglet fatality is due to the mother attacking or unintentionally crushing the newborn pre-weaned animals.
Savaging has a negative effect on pig farming. Efforts to eliminate it include additional care and attention to the mother pig. Aggressive behavior may be due to fear, discomfort, and unsanitary conditions. Control of the birthing process and human supervision are the best ways to prevent the mother from eating the young, but cost-effectiveness must also be considered.
Statistics indicate that cannibal mother pigs are usually repeat offenders. Thus, one method of prevention is to avoid use of past-offenders for breeding. Alternatively, placing experienced sows next to first-time mother gilts may discourage aggressive behavior.
Pigs will sometimes attack other animals, including humans.
- Harris, M., Bergeron, R., Li1, Y. and Gonyou, H. (2001). "Savaging of piglets: A puzzle of maternal behaviour". Retrieved July 31, 2013.
- North Carolina Pork Conference – Management Tips to Reduce Pre-Weaning Mortality. 2002. North Carolina State University.
- Daily Mail article: Nurse 'savaged' by enraged giant pig. 13 October 2006
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