Hide a truffle when training your pigs

How Can Pigs Find Truffles? Train Your Truffle Pig + More

We were so excited when we added pigs to our homestead, and the children thoroughly enjoyed looking after the little piglets and adult pigs. One night my husband and I sat at the table eating delicious pasta with truffle shavings when we had a brilliant idea. 

Why not train one or two of our pigs to hunt for truffles? Looking for truffles would be a fantastic experience for our children and bring in good money for the homestead. Our land has a beautiful forest, and the climate here is perfect for growing truffles.

We agreed that the best way to make this successful was to call a local truffle hunter for advice and tips on getting started. She suggested we train the pigs, as using professional truffle pig trainers was quite expensive. She also mentioned that teaching your pigs was a straightforward process.

How do pigs find truffles? Start by training your pig to alert you when they smell a truffle. Get your pig familiar with the smell of the truffle, and then hide it. Make sure to accompany your pig and have snacks with you to give the pig once they find the truffle.

Offer your pig treats and rewards to prevent them from eating the truffles they find. Finally, test the training by searching in a nearby forest. 

Pigs have an exceptional sense of smell that you can use to your benefit. This guide looks into how pigs find truffles, which breed of pig is best suited for truffle hunting, and the lifespan of a truffle hunting pig.

Training your truffle pig becomes rewarding when they find the first truffle

What Are Truffles and How Do Pigs Smell Them?

A truffle, also fondly known as the “fairy apple or diamond of the kitchen,” is a very rare and expensive cousin to the mushroom. It’s a type of fungus that favors moist neutral, or alkaline soil. This fungus is found about 6 inches under the ground, near the root systems of trees. Common trees where truffles grow are Oak, Beech, Fir, Hazel, Pine, and Poplar. 

Going truffle hunting in a forest, meadow, or the mountains after some good rainfall is a great way to start. A truffle pig or hog can pick up the scent of a truffle as deep as 25 feet underground. They are also able to smell a truffle from about 5 miles away.

Depending on which variety of truffles you are hunting, they are only available for a few months of the year. The popular black winter truffle is found during the winter and spring. The black summer truffle is found during the summer months. So you can hunt truffles all year, depending on the variety.

There are three types of truffles: the white variety, the black variety, and the burgundy variety. The most sought-after truffle in the world is the white Alba truffle, found between September and January, but only in Italy near the town of Alba.

A truffle is a very fussy fungus that requires perfect conditions to grow. Ensure that your homestead or land has truffles growing near the trees before you start training a truffle pig. Otherwise, the whole exercise will be pointless. 

Four wild truffle varieties naturally grow in the US, especially in Oregon’s forests. Be sure you know which are edible before you spend months training and hunting for truffles you’ll have to throw away. 

Truffle hunting pigs are lucrative for owners

How the Scent Process Helps Pigs Find Truffles

Female pigs are used to find truffles because they have a great sense of smell and are natural foragers. They also can’t resist the musky scent of the pheromone released by these fragrant fungi. Unlike humans or dogs, trained truffle pigs can find the ripest truffles without fail.

Truffles contain a pheromone called androstenol. This hormone is also produced in a male pig’s testes and secreted through their saliva when the male tries to attract the female. The scent drives the female pig crazy with lust, which is why she will seek truffles since they smell like the male’s saliva.

Did you know: Truffles contain aphrodisiac properties for pigs and humans and are said to provide a higher sex drive for those who consume them.

The Value of Finding Truffles

Truffles are very popular in the culinary industry and are rated one of the most expensive food types in the world. Individuals and companies are willing to pay top dollar for a good-sized truffle. 

They have a musky, earthy smell with a garlicky taste that you can’t really explain. Becoming a truffle hunter is undoubtedly a lucrative business and a great way to quickly make a lot of money. However, it takes great patience and time, as truffles are fussy about where they grow. Since truffles are seasonal, it’s not a stable source of income.

Here’s a quick look at some of the prices a truffle can fetch:

  • A single truffle can cost about $3,800
  • The largest Alba white truffle (66.66 ounces) ever found was sold for $61,000
  • Winter black truffles sell for around $768 per pound
  • Summer black truffles sell for about $361 per pound
  • A white truffle costs a whopping $168 per ounce

Did you know: Truffles are more valuable than gold because it’s so rare and very high in demand. So time to get your truffle-sniffing pig trained up!

Training pigs to hunt for truffles is not difficult

Truffle Hunting Pigs: Which Pig Breed is the Best? 

Any pig can be trained to hunt truffles and become a truffle hunting pig. However, there are specific pig breeds that are easier to train with this task. 

Pig Breeds’ Characteristics Best For Truffle Hunting Chart

Pig BreedCharacteristics for Truffle Hunting
Black Iberian pig (also known as the Spanish Black Pig)Intelligent breed of pig that can easily be trained to hunt trufflesThey have long snouts that are excellent for foraging and rooting up soilThe pheromones released from a truffle drives them crazy and makes it easy for them to locate.
Tamworth PigHighly intelligent breed of pig that’s very efficient in mining through the soil for trufflesTamworth sow’s (female’s) have a good sense of smell for recognizing trufflesWorks well alongside their owners and dogs
Mulefoot PigA natural forager that can spend hours rooting between the treesGentle breed that is easily trained
Choctaw HogSmaller breed of pig that moves quite fastExcellent foraging skillsCan be trained to sniff out trufflesWorks well with truffle dogs
Berkshire PigFriendly and intelligent breed of pig that’s easily trainedCalm temperamentExcellent foraging skills
Reward pigs immediately after it finds a truffle

5 Simple Steps to Train Your Pig to Find Truffles

Humans have a hard time finding these pungent, elusive wild fungi on their own. That’s why truffle hunters need the help of truffle pigs or dogs to sniff these “diamonds of the kitchen” out. Instead of digging in the soil blindly, they train female pigs to locate the truffles for their owners.

Here are five simple steps that you can use to train your pig to become a successful truffle hunter:

1. Start Training With Small Steps

When you start training your truffle hunting pig, it’s essential to ensure that you take it slow. Pigs are brilliant animals, but training takes time, patience, and hard work, as with any other animal. 

It would be best if you considered training a younger pig rather than a fully grown pig, as teaching an older animal a new skill is always challenging. Bear in mind that piglets should not be used as they have not developed a sex drive yet, and will not be attracted to the smell.

Start small by first hiding toys in a small environment with minimal distraction, so your pig can focus. You don’t want your pig to get over-excited or boisterous, so they cannot follow your instructions.

2. Get Your Pig Familiar with the Scent

Use a tiny bit of truffle oil (a synthetically made oil containing dithiapentane which gives truffles their distinct smell and flavor) and rub it on the toys so that your pig has a scent to follow.

Once your pig successfully locates the toy, reward them with a yummy treat. (Don’t reward them with a truffle, as they will eat the truffles when they find them, and you don’t want that).

Rub truffle oil on toys or cotton balls (which absorb the oil nicely) and hide them away again. Note how long it takes your pig to find the “truffle.” 

Always ensure that you make a fuss of your pig when they find the hidden toy. This will encourage them to alert you that they have found the toy (instead of eating the truffle when the real hunting starts).

3. Hide a Truffle

Now that your pig can sniff out the hidden toys, it’s time to provide more of a challenge. Once again, put some truffle oil on a cotton wool ball and wrap it in aluminum foil (this will stop the pig from eating the cotton ball and make it a bit harder to sniff out).

Hide the “truffle ball” by digging a hole in the soil and burying it. Let your pig smell another cotton ball with the oil on, and signal them to find the “truffle.” Your pig will start sniffing at the ground until they pick up the scent of the truffle. Reward each successful find with a pig-appropriate treat. 

Female pigs are used to find truffles because they have a great sense of smell

4. Accompany Your Pig

It’s time to test your pigs’ new skills in the natural environment. Your pig may be overwhelmed by all the new smells at first. Guide your pig towards the hidden “truffle ball” with a well-fitting pig harness and leash, and follow your pig closely as they sniff the ground and try to locate the scent. Using a leash gives you control over where your pig goes and how they behave.

Once your pig has picked up the scent, they will start using their snout to dig into the soil and uproot the truffle ball. At this point, you can train your pig to alert you that they have found something by grunting or walking in a circle above the area. 

It would be best if you got to the truffle before your pig devours it, as they find it very hard to resist the aroma and taste of this fungus. Unfortunately, some pigs will damage the truffle while digging in their excitement to reach the source of the sex hormone.

5. Offer Treats and Rewards

This step is the most essential part of training a truffle pig. As mentioned before, pigs (predominantly female pigs) find it very hard to resist the smell and taste of truffles. When you train your pig, have their favorite snacks with you. 

Once your pig has signaled that they have found a truffle, reward them by verbally congratulating them and giving them their snack. Your pig must be keen to find the truffle for the snack reward but not so excited that they eat the truffle that they dig up.

This is also why you must follow your pig closely when hunting for truffles, as your pig might eat the truffle before you can get it away from them (and who can blame them). 

Most truffle hunters won’t allow their pigs to dig. They let the pig sniff out the general area, and then the hunter takes over with a spade and a rake to carefully remove the truffle. By doing this, the truffle is not damaged or eaten. 

Getting started in Truffle Hunting is simple

Tools You Need to Get Started in Truffle Hunting

If you want to start truffle hunting, there are a few things you will need to get started, such as:

  • A truffle pig or dog, as humans are unable to detect the smell of truffles deep under the ground
  • A good pair of boots for walking through muddy soil and hiking
  • A waterproof jacket to keep you dry if it rains (hunting for truffles after a rain storm is the best time)
  • A rake to uproot the truffle once your pig or dog has detected it
  • You will need energy, as you might be walking large distances through forests and meadows
  • Have a good knowledge of the area’s land and soil types. This will help you pinpoint the best hunting locations for truffles
  • Keep your eye on the weather patterns. The more rain there is, the more truffles there should be
  • Some general knowledge of insects, such as the truffle fly, will help you locate where truffles are growing. Truffle flies lay their eggs above the fruiting fungus. Once the larvae hatch, they burrow into the soil in search of the truffles
  • A small spade to dig up the truffle once your dog or pig has located it. Pigs will dig frantically at the ground to reach the truffle. You want to avoid this, as this can damage the truffle
  • You will need a bag or basket to place the truffles in so that they don’t get damaged
  • Be sure to follow any rules and regulations that apply to truffle hunting in the area you are exploring
  • Carry plenty of snacks or rewards for your truffle pig or dog
Truffle pigs are outlawed in some countries

Truffle Pig Lifespan, Worth, and Why It’s Illegal in Italy

Pigs are not born truffle hunters. A truffle pig or truffle hog is a domestic pig that has been specifically trained to find and extract truffles. Their amazing sense of smell allows them to pick up the scent of a truffle more than three feet underground.

Humans rely on the truffle hogs’ keen sense of smell to lead them to the areas where the truffle fruit is located. Female pigs are usually far more accurate at finding truffles, as truffles contain the same sex hormone (androstenol) found in male pigs’ saliva.

Once the truffle hog locates a truffle and starts digging with their snout, it’s time for you to do the rest. Sometimes the musky smell of the truffle is just too good, and your pig won’t be able to resist the aroma. Your pig will try to eat the truffle before you can reach it.

This reason alone is why some people choose to use truffle hounds, as they aren’t as drawn to the hormones in the fruit as the pigs are. 

Truffle pigs are legal in most countries. However, they are banned in Italy during May to protect the truffle ecosystem and environment. The truffle-hunting pigs cause too much damage to the fragile fungi systems in the soil. The pigs’ hooves cause damage to the roots of the trees, which means no more truffles will grow there.

A well-trained truffle hunting pig can sell for up to $10,000, but now that truffle hunters use normal domestic pigs, they can go for as little as $200. Younger pigs that are not fully trained go for even less.

If you’re worried about the time and effort you need to put into training your pig, rest assured that you’ll get your money’s worth, as a typical truffle pig has a lifespan of between 15 and 20 years. 

A truffle pig with a proven track record sells for much more. However, truffle hunters have recently started using truffle dogs as they don’t find the pheromones in truffles appetizing and have no desire to eat them.

Piglet learning to truffle hunt

Can Pigs Find Truffles FAQs

Pigs make excellent truffle hunters thanks to their sharp sense of smell and their attraction to the sex hormone in the truffles deep in the ground. Once the truffle pigs locate the truffles, you can gently dig them out.

Can you find truffles without a pig?

You can find truffles without a pig. Many people train their dogs as truffle hounds. Like pigs, dogs have a very good sense of smell and can be taught to sniff out truffles. 

Humans can also find truffles if they search amongst the correct trees on their hands and knees. They’ll need to comb carefully through the moss for the spherical tuber.

Truffle hunting pigs or dogs – which is better?

Truffle-hunting pigs and truffle hounds are both excellent at finding truffles. The biggest downside to using a truffle hog is that they sometimes can’t control the urge to eat truffles once they find it. On the other hand, dogs are happy to dig the truffle up and receive a treat in return. They aren’t drawn to the sex hormone-like the pigs are.

How much is a truffle pig worth?

A well-trained truffle hunting pig can sell for up to $10,000, but now that truffle hunters use normal domestic pigs, they can go for as little as $200. Younger pigs that are not fully trained go for even less.

A truffle pig with a proven track record sells for much more. However, truffle hunters have recently started using truffle dogs as they don’t find the pheromones in truffles appetizing and have no desire to eat them.

What else can pigs be taught to scent hunt?

Pigs have an exceptional sense of smell and can learn to scent out drugs and blood, which is an excellent asset to humans in law enforcement. Some pigs can scent out the smell of popcorn and a variety of different foods.

Pigs are highly intelligent animals and have an exceptional sense of smell. Like dogs,  pigs are often used to assist humans in law enforcement. They can scent out various drugs as well as blood. Pigs can hunt down a scent buried as deep as 25 feet underground and can also scent-hunt different smells, such as popcorn or pineapple.

5 Simple Steps to Train Your Pig to Find Truffles


Pigs are brilliant animals, and thanks to the local truffle hunters’ advice, we could follow these five easy steps to train our pigs to hunt truffles. My children enjoy putting on their boots and taking the pigs for a walk to hunt truffles in our nearby pine forest.  

We did find that one of our pigs couldn’t resist eating the truffles when she found them. This, unfortunately, is a common problem that truffle hunters experience with their truffle pigs. That’s why you should stay close to the pig when truffle hunting. 

If you want to learn about caring for your amazing truffle pig, why not read our article on caring for your pet pig


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My Most Used Pig Supplies

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Purina Pig Chow will last well (or Mazuri is popular, but I haven’t tried it), and the stainless steel non-skid bowls that will help keep the mess down.

A pig blanket to keep her warm. This one also has bright colors and helps to provide rooting without the destruction.

Pig Harness for walking and handling your pig. There are a lot to choose from, but this one is pretty easy to use. If you want one that has a separate leash, this looks like a good one.

A large crate for keeping her safe in your house at night and when you leave the house. This is essential. You’ll also want a litterbox, and I like mine with a lid for nighttime. Pine shavings are best, and you may be able to find them in larger quantities locally.

When you have accidents, Odoban will help eliminate odors. When you are potty training, these floor pads work great for keeping your house clean while training her to go in certain places.

You’ll also want an outdoor house to keep her warm when she gets outside time, an essential part of her development.

Dewormer- Ivermectin is the primary dewormer I use, although I do rotate with a non-ivermect ingredient once so that the worms don’t get immune to it.

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