Olfactory cues and pig agonistic behavior: Evidence for a submissive pheromone

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One hundred and two prepubertal pigs were used in two experiments to determine if adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH)-induced increase in submissive behavior could be mediated by odorous signals. In experiment one, urine was collected from pigs treated with either 0, 1 or 10 IU/kg ACTH. Urine from pigs given 1.0 IU/kg ACTH caused a trend for a rise in submissive behavior. Level of plasma cortisol from donor pigs correlated well (r = 92) with duration of submissive behavior in the tested pigs. In experiment two, urine from ACTH-treated pigs increased submissive behavior when sprayed in the air during late fight. Thus, ACTH-induced submissiveness may be mediated by a pheromone. These results fit the hypothesis that, in addition to visual cues, an olfactory cue (perhaps adrenal in origin) is released towards the end of a fight to signal submission. Aerosolizing urine from ACTH-treated pigs may have interfered with this pheromonal signal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-198
Number of pages4
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1985


  • Aggressive
  • Pheromone
  • Submissive
  • Swine


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