Can Pigs Look Up? Can They See the Sky?

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it is that there is no shortage of urban legends concerning pigs and livestock in general.

Kunekune Pigs
Kunekune Pigs

From chickens being afraid of rain or drowning when they get caught in it to cows supposedly being able to run downhill or navigate stairs.

How and where these assertions come from would be a great topic for another article or an entire series of articles, but the only thing we need to know today is whether or not they are true.

Specifically, the question of whether or not pigs can even look up, and if they can see the sky at all. So what’s the truth? Can pigs look up and can they see the sky?

Yes, pigs can look up and they can see the sky. However, pigs are unable to tilt their heads back very far due to the physical limitations of their spines.

Like most good legends on topics like this, there is actually a grain of truth to it even though the assertion on whole is false.

Rest assured that your pigs can look up and they can see the wild blue yonder. I couldn’t tell you whether or not they dream of flying, but I can tell you with certainty that pigs aren’t interested pretty much at all with what is going on above them away from the ground.

I’ll tell you all about it in the rest of this article…

What’s the Deal with Pigs Supposedly Not Looking Up?

Again, this is one of those old wives tales and it myths about animals that you can’t really say for sure where it came from and when it started.

But the crux of it goes something like this: pigs are completely, totally incapable of looking up, at all, and an accompanying assertion is that because of this pigs are basically unaware of the sky.

It really does not take much imagination to punch holes in this cockamamie theory immediately- like, do pigs not tilt their heads? Do they not lie down on their sides?

Are they somehow physically unable to perceive the sky or unaware of the concept of open sky?- but it persists as one of those general declarations that some people just don’t question much.

Like the comparison I made above to chickens and turkeys drowning in the rain because they won’t stop staring up, or the fact that cows supposedly cannot run downhill or navigate stairs.

None of them are true, but at the end of the day, there’s a grain of truth in each of them, perhaps just enough to give them staying power in the public consciousness!

In the following sections we will unpack that grain of truth as it pertains to pigs being unable to look up.

Pigs Can Look Up, but they Cannot Tilt their Heads Back Very Far

To clear one thing up immediately, yes, pigs can in fact look up. And to be more specific, when they are standing up straight on all fours in a normal posture, they can tilt their head back, point their snout upward and look up with their eyes. That’s it, end of discussion.

That being said, and this is where that pesky grain of truth pops up, they cannot tilt their heads back very far.

This is because the natural limitations of a pig’s neck and spinal column, and the head’s attachment to the neck, limit the range of motion in that direction to only about 40° above the horizontal.

Because of pigs have a heavy head compared to the rest of their body, and the fact that their head and snout are usually angled downward even when in a neutral position means that the neck and spine must be optimized to prevent fatigue and support the head in this position at all times.

Accordingly, going in the opposite direction is somewhat straining and generally limited for them.

How Can Pigs Look Up?

So, if pigs cannot tilt their heads back very far, how can they look up? Well, think of how you look at the sky.

Do you need to tilt your head all the way back and stare straight up into the sky to see what is above your normal line of sight? No, of course you don’t.

You can just tilt your head upward slightly to bring your normal line of sight up to see what is above you.

To further increase your field of vision in this direction, you can move your eyeballs upward. Pigs can do the same thing although their range of motion is, again, limited compared to our own.

A pig that is standing up can easily move its head upward and then its eyes to see well enough up towards the sky.

If they need to see even higher, they can rotate their head to one side slightly since their eyes are on the side of their head and not at the front, or else they can sit down on their haunches to angle their spine and head upward even more.

Nothing to it, though pigs aren’t particularly concerned with what is above them as we will learn in a moment.

Do Pigs Even Need to Look Up?

Honestly, not really. A pig’s entire life happens on the ground, of course, but I mean it really takes place right at the surface of the ground.

Pigs are rooting animals, and everything from their noses to their posture is designed to keep them investigating the ground for food. This is why their head naturally points downward somewhat…

No, you might say that there are potential predators that could take a pig from above, maybe a bird of prey or something.

Yes, pigs are nominally prey animals, and their eyes especially tell us this, but there is no bird of prey that can take an adult pig of any size except perhaps a golden eagle that is after a particularly small breed.

Accordingly, pigs don’t really need to keep an eye on the sky for threats: there are more concerned watching out for wolves, coyotes, people or the occasional big cat or alligator.

Should You be Concerned if Your Pig is Looking Up All the Time?

None of this is to say that pigs don’t look up, or that from time to time they might not seem to be gazing into the sky.

But, prolonged “sky watching” or any pig that seems to be straining or craning its neck to look upward should be watched closely.

It’s hard to say exactly what might be causing it, but the pig might be sick or have it some kind of injury that is promoting this sort of behavior or posture.

It could be something like an infection, maybe even something as bad as meningitis, or could be a traumatic brain injury or some other injury to the neck or spine.

Similarly, a pig that is always sitting down on its haunches should be inspected closely for any injury or illness.

The point is that pigs do not watch the sky or look up all the time as a matter of course, and you should be quick to respond if you notice any of your pigs doing so.

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