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Experience in Substrate-Enriched and Substrate-Impoverished Environments Affects Behaviour of Pigs in a T-Maze Task

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Previous research showed that pigs reared in substrate-impoverished conditions performed a smaller proportion of their total behavioural repertoire in their home pens (showed lower behavioural diversity), than pigs reared in substrate-enriched conditions. This study examined whether these differences were the result of fundamental changes in behavioural organisation. A T-maze task was used to test the hypothesis that substrate-impoverished pigs are prone to develop fixed, unvarying behaviour which may underlie their reduced behavioural diversity. They were predicted to be poorer at reversing previous response patterns in the maze, and less able to alter their behaviour in response to a novel (distracting) stimulus. Female pigs were housed singly for five months in substrate-impoverished pens with bare concrete floors (N = 10) or substrate-enriched pens with straw and other foraging material (N = 10). The pigs were then trained to negotiate a T-maze to reach a food source. There were no differences in responses to a distracting stimulus in the start arm of the maze but, contrary to expectation, substrate-enriched pigs were less able to change their behaviour when the route to food was switched. Thus, the hypothesis was not supported. During training trials, substrate-enriched pigs moved fairly rapidly to the food

Affiliations: 1: (Genetics and Behavioural Sciences Department, SAC-Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3JG, UK

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