Review: Early life predisposing factors for biting in pigs

Armelle Prunier, Xavier Averos, Ivan Dimitrov, Sandra Edwards, Edna Hillman, Mirjam Holinger, Vlatko Ilieski, Ragnar Leming, Celine Tallet, SP Turner, Manja Zupan, Irene Camerlink

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


The pig industry faces many animal welfare issues. Among these, biting behaviour has a high incidence. It is indicative of an
existing problem in biters and is a source of physical damage and psychological stress for the victims. We categorize this
behaviour into aggressive and non-aggressive biting, the latter often being directed towards the tail. This review focusses
specifically on predisposing factors in early life, comprising the prenatal and postnatal periods up to weaning, for the expression
of aggressive and non-aggressive biting later in life. The influence of personality and coping style has been examined in a few
studies. It varies according to these studies and, thus, further evaluation is needed. Regarding the effect of environmental factors,
the number of scientific papers is low (less than five papers for most factors). No clear influence of prenatal factors has been
identified to date. Aggressive biting is reduced by undernutrition, cross-fostering and socialization before weaning. Nonaggressive
biting is increased by undernutrition, social stress due to competition and cross-fostering. These latter three factors are
highly dependent on litter size at birth. The use of familiar odours may contribute to reducing biting when pigs are moved from
one environment to another by alleviating the level of stress associated with novelty. Even though the current environment in
which pigs are expressing biting behaviours is of major importance, the pre-weaning environment should be optimized to reduce
the likelihood of this problem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-587
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Early online date22 Aug 2019
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2020


  • aggression
  • oral manipulation
  • pre-weaning
  • swine
  • tail biting


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