Cats have them, rats have them, and so do dogs, beavers, sea lions, walruses, and almost all mammals. Even in humans, you find muscles in the upper lips that were once connected to the use of whiskers! When you look at pigs, their snout is obviously at the forefront of how they interact with their environment.
But do pigs have whiskers? Yes, they do! They do not always have whiskers that are as long and prominent as the whiskers of cats and mice, but you can see slightly longer and coarser hairs around their snout and on their chin. Those are the whiskers.
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A pig’s snout is certainly it’s most apparent characteristic. It is specially developed to be both sensitive enough to help the pig navigate its surroundings, and durable enough to root in the ground for
In their communication with one another as well as in their orientation in the world, pigs are highly dependent on olfactory input (smells) and it’s just one of the reasons for the prominence of their nose.
In an example of a symbiotic relationship, the truffle fungi have developed a smell that mimics the testosterone of boars, so that pigs can easily find them and, by digging them up and carrying them around spread their spores, just as bees are attracted to flower and help spread them.
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People who keep pigs as pets often notice that they like to nudge their owners with their snouts and sometimes even nibble at their hands, especially when they are still young piglets. This is not a sign of aggression, on the contrary! Just as human babies grab anything with their hands, be it your finger or your nose, so do piglets explore the world with their snout.
Pigs have a very bad short-range vision, so, rather than seeing you, they have to get to know you by the use of their other senses. And since they have 3 to 4 times as many tastebuds as humans and their snout is 2.000 times more sensitive than a human nose, their snout is the most efficient instrument for exploring the world and getting to know you.
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Why Do Animals Have Whiskers?
Whiskers were once called vibrissae, a term derived from the Latin word for vibrate. They are not just very long hair, but they are thicker and more rigid than normal fur. But what do they do? The hair follicles from which whiskers grow have a lot of additional blood vessels and nerves.
Rats and cats have 100-200 nerve cells per whiskers and seals even 1,500! This makes whiskers extremely sensitive so that they can function as a sensory tool that helps animals navigate their way through their surroundings.
Like hair, the whiskers themselves do not feel anything, but when they touch something, the vibration of the touch alerts the nerve endings in the follicle. These nerve endings are so sensitive, that animals navigating through a dark space can sense nearby walls and objects just by changes in the airflow!
The nerve endings register the direction, speed, and duration of any vibratory movement and thus help the animal to “see” the location, size, and even texture of the nearby object.
Cats, for example, use whiskers to estimate whether they can squeeze into a narrow space, and seals use their whiskers to find prey by registering the hydrodynamic trails of fish swimming past.
Whiskers can help you to read the emotional state of your pet. A cat whose whiskers are folded flat against its face is in an aggressive and threatening mood. When the animal is curious and alertly sniffing out something, the whiskers are sprawled out from its face.
While the whiskers around the nostrils are often the most apparent, whiskers also grow around the eyes and sometimes also on the forelegs and feet of some animals.
Should I Trim the Whiskers of My Pet?
No! Under no circumstances should you trim your pet’s whiskers. For the reasons explained above, the whiskers are so sensitive, that the procedure of trimming them would be highly uncomfortable for the animal.
Additionally, whiskers perform a function, and without them, your pet would struggle to stay oriented. Cutting off or shortening its whiskers is basically forcing your pet to walk around blindfolded.