Pig Fight: Why Are My Pigs Fighting All of a Sudden?

Pig fight and display aggression for different reasons

A pig fight is a common incident that happens when you have several pigs in a pen. Regardless of whether they’re male or female, pigs fight due to different reasons. In fact, pigs not only fight, but they also bite and eat each other depending on what they’re feeling. 

What causes a pig fight? Once you see a pig fight, its main reason is to assert dominance over other pigs. Pigs fight each other for reasons like food, when they just met, or when defending their territory, including their piglets. Sows also fight other sows when they feel threatened and need to be aggressive. Pigs fight each other to the death by biting each other’s ears, nudging the other pigs, or even eating each other. 

It’s not a good sight to see pigs fighting each other, but you should step up to prevent further injuries or deaths among your pigs. As a homesteader or farmer, you are responsible for protecting your animals. Want to know more about a pig’s dominant behavior? Read below! 

Pig Fight Signs (When Do Pigs Stop Play Fighting)

A pig fight is about to start once the pig slowly circles another pig, begins swiping its heads from side to side, and starts head-butting one another (not in a friendly way). Pigs also charge and lunge at other pigs and bite and chew on other pigs’ tails. 

Additionally, pig fighting begins when the pigs grind and chomp their teeth when fighting (which results in foaming at the mouth). Also, they nip at one another while their neck hairs continue to stand up straight. 

Like humans, pigs fight because they’re sensitive and have feelings too. Their moods can change instantly, and their games can go from playing to fighting very quickly. Knowing the difference is essential, especially when your pigs live in a herd.

How to Tell if A Pig Wants to Fight: 

  • Slowly circles one another 
  • Neck hairs are raised 
  • Begins swiping heads from side to side
  • Starts head-butting one another
  • Grinds and chomps their teeth
  • Bites other pigs’ tail
  • Lunges at one another
  • Nips and draws blood

Overall, the best way to determine if your pig is becoming aggressive is to pay close attention to its body language.

Why Do Pigs Fight All of a Sudden? 

Pigs fight to establish their dominance in a pen. It’s normal (and natural) for a pig fight to start, and they do this even when they’re just piglets, when owners mix them all together in one area (which may turn into overcrowded pens), when they have maternal instincts to defend, or when they need to fight for their ranks. 

Like any other animal species that lives in a group setting, pigs have a strict hierarchy that ranks them from the strongest to the weakest. Even though fighting is a regular occurrence in a herd, it can cause increased stress, decreased growth and immunity, and injuries in the herd.

Pigs will fight in crowded pens DLX 2 PS

5 Reasons Pigs Fight and How to Prevent Them

A pig fight occurs due to many reasons, whether they need to assert dominance, get to the top of the ranking order, or when nursing their piglets. If a pig owner doesn’t do anything to prevent pigs fighting, severe physical damage can happen to the pigs, which isn’t the best thing for those who keep them for meat. 

1. Piglets Fight to Get The Most Milk 

Piglets can be just as aggressive as older pigs, and they can start pig fighting to get the most milk from their mother. When a sow (female pig) has a litter of piglets, the stronger piglets will fight their way to the front teats to nurse, where there is the best and most milk.

The weaker piglets nurse from the hind teats with the least milk. Piglets, similar to older pigs, like to establish a routine, which is evident when they’re nursing. They typically suckle at the same teat for the entire nursing period until they’re weaned (between 19 and 22 days old).

So when another piglet tries to suckle at “their” allocated teat, fighting will break out, which forces the weaker pig back to suckle at its original teat.

How to Stop Nursing Piglets From A Pig Fight: 

Split suckle to ensure that all the piglets receive enough milk and avoid fighting. 

Remove the strongest half of the litter for one or two hours during the morning and afternoon and let the weaker piglets suckle from the front teats. 

Keep larger piglets in a warm area to prevent chilling (during winter, piglets become weak). 

Give your sow oxytocin (hormone) to help her produce more milk.

2. Pigs Fighting Over Food More Than Anything

Pigs fight over food since they love to eat almost all the time. Pigs don’t care if their food is delicious or not. Once pigs see other pigs eat their food, pig fighting may start. The pigs will eventually attack each other and be territorial over their food. Sometimes, when pigs aren’t full yet, they also start a pig fight and get aggressive. 

Pigs that are nutrient-deficient are also more prone to fight other pigs in a pen. Once they don’t have enough food supplements, they will get stressed, and this may trigger their aggressive behavior. 

How Do You Stop Pigs Fighting Over Food: 

Separate the pigs when eating in order to give them distance from each other. This will also prevent them from stealing each other’s food. 

Quit hand-feeding if you’re doing this to your pigs. Only give treats to your pigs when they are submissive to you and your commands.  

Pigs can be sensitive and have feelings too

2. Sows Fight Piglets That Aren’t From Them 

Sows will fight (or even eat) piglets that aren’t from their own litter, resulting in pigs fighting. Sometimes, sows are unable or unwilling to nurse their piglets, so other sows will step up to nurse the piglets. When this happens, most farmers rely on fostering (moving piglets from one sow to another) to ensure they receive enough milk and colostrum. 

Ensure fostering happens early (within the first 12 hours) for success. Pigs recognize one another through smell; a sow will immediately know when a litter of piglets isn’t hers. As a result, she may become aggressive toward the piglets and eventually hurt them. 

How to Stop Sows From Eating or Fighting Piglets:

Check the history of the sow to ensure that she has never been aggressive or restless when fostering piglets. 

Sows should be young and close to weaning her current littler to prevent aggression from other piglets. 

Spray some gentian violet into the sow’s nostrils. This will dampen her sense of smell, and she won’t pick up the strange scent of the foster piglets.

Make the sows sleep and eat with foster piglets, and they will soon relax with them. 

Supervise the bonding of the nursing sow and the foster litter. Intervene if she starts showing signs of being aggressive.

3. Pig Fighting Starts When Pigs Meet Other Pigs

Pigs have a strict hierarchy, and when you mix or group pigs together, you are changing that order which results in a pig fight. That’s why they’ll use aggression and conflict to reestablish their place on the hierarchy.

It’s only natural for pigs (especially two males) to sort out who’s number one and number two in the ranking order of who eats first. This process typically takes one to two days (or maybe longer, depending on the number of pigs in the herd).

Try not to mix pigs too frequently; every time they fight, they don’t grow, and it wastes energy. Pigs can hurt each other badly with their teeth. Scratch marks can also become infected, which means a trip to the vet.

If you’re breeding pigs for meat, the injuries they sustain can become present under the skin after slaughter.

Why are my female pigs fighting? Sows or female pigs fight each other to defend their territory in a pen. Female pigs attack each other when they’re mixed with different groups of sows that they didn’t remember during gestation. 

Studies show that sows can remember their pen-mates within four weeks of separation after their birthing. Thus, they don’t fight each other, unlike those they just met. 

How to Stop Pigs That Live Together From Fighting: 

Give pigs distractions, such as toys and other materials, to prevent them from fighting. 

Don’t mix young and older pigs together to stop them from being violent. Usually, the bigger pigs will assert dominance when they see little pigs which will lead to serious injuries. 

Ensure they have plenty of space so they can establish their hierarchy instantly. 

Two male pigs will fight at first

4. Pigs Bully Others to Show Dominance When Inside Pens 

When you have too many pigs living together in a small space, it’s guaranteed that they’ll start pig fighting and bully each other. Pigs usually have a favorite standing and sleeping spot; if another pig is in their area, they’ll fight over it.

If the pen is too small, the weaker pig will have nowhere to retreat to, so the fighting will continue. A retreating pig will usually lower their head and hide in a corner.

You’ll also notice that the same pigs usually get into fights with one another. The lack of space will frustrate them further, and the fighting can lead to deep lacerations and sometimes even death.

How to Stop Pigs From Fighting in Overcrowded Pens: 

Break down some walls in the pen for ventilation and to provide more space for the pigs. 

Give pigs amino acid Tryptophan which helps prevent mood swings and aggression.

Let pigs spend time outside of the pen. This will prevent them from feeling bored (which leads to aggression and fighting). 

Provide toys and other materials, such as hoses, rubber boots, and hay.

5. Sows Attack Humans If They Sense Danger for Their Piglets

Getting in between a sow and her piglets can lead to aggression. A sow will be perfectly calm one minute and suddenly become aggressive, territorial, and protective the next. This behavior is a result of the increased hormone levels from farrowing.

When farrowing, it’s essential to keep an eye on the sow and remove the piglets if the aggression continues. If she feels her piglets (or herself) are in danger, the sow will lunge at you (or another pig) and even bark as a warning. She may also swipe her head from side to side and breathe deeply. 

If you ignore her warnings and continue approaching her or the piglets, she will attempt to bite, kick, or run you off your feet.In 2021, a 49-year-old male was found dead on his farm, where a sow and its piglet were present. His dead body was found with severe blunt-force injuries.

How to Stop Sows From Attacking You: 

Keeping a safe distance is the best thing to do when a sow is hormonal and feeling protective. 

Bark back and lunge forward. This will cause her to retreat slightly and soften. 

Keep something in between you and the sow if she shows aggression. A trash can lid or a piece of wood works well. 

Play quiet music to calm the sow down and try not to make sudden loud noises or movements.

Give your pig a blankie to make her happy. 

Piglets can be aggressive to one another

Will My Pigs Stop Fighting? 

Pigs cannot stop fighting because it’s natural for them, but you can help it to be lessened. Owners can decrease the occurrence of pig fighting by ensuring they have enough food, they’re not bored, or the pigs have already established a hierarchy in a pen. Remember not to place pigs that they don’t identify, or else they’ll bully the pig or vice versa. 

Pig Fight FAQs

Pigs fight and show aggression, whether with their owners or other pigs, to express dominance. There are many other reasons they do this, such as when they’re treated badly or feel a sense of danger for themselves or their piglets. 

Can Two Male Pigs Get Along?

When two male pigs are introduced to one another, they can get along, but there are chances that they will soon attack each other. When they do, the fight can become too aggressive, which may result in severe injuries to both animals. 

Pigs are herd creatures and need to find their place in the hierarchy. Once they’ve established their roles in the herd, the fighting should stop. Keeping the pigs distracted with hay will diffuse the tension.

Do Pigs Play Fight? 

Pigs play fight, and it’s difficult for owners to identify if it’s a real pig fight or a play fight. Usually, piglets play fight before their preweaning period. After that, real pig fighting occurs more often. It’s good to note that pigs are just play fighting when the chances of winning are highest, meaning they don’t kill off each other just to win. 

Do Potbellied Pigs Fight?

When potbellied pigs fighting other pigs, they do this to establish their dominance. It’s normal for them to grow between 80 to 180 pounds, so once they attack each other, injuries can really happen. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like the presence of other pigs or humans. In fact, they can get sad if they’re alone.  

Why Do Sows Fight?

Sows will fight to establish their dominance over other sows. Feeling maternal and protective is another reason they’ll fight with other pigs and humans. If a sow doesn’t receive her food in time, she can become aggressive and start fighting with another pig out of frustration. 

This isn’t beneficial for sows because aggression can get them stressed out, which may lead to reduced growth. 


Although it’s not easy for owners to be okay when a pig fight happens, understand that pigs have natural instinct to fight even while young. It’s normal for pigs to bite other pigs to mainly assert dominance. You can’t do anything about it but prevent the pig’s aggressive behavior from acting up and eventually killing each other.  


Pub Med


Research Gate Published Study: Pig Body Language

Pig Body Language Study

Science Direct:

Pig Hierachy

Pub Med:

Effects of Oxytocin on Sows

Pub Med:

Physcological Roles of Tryptophan

Pub Med:

Pig Caused Death

Science Direct:

The dark side of Play in domestic pigs

Talitha van Niekerk

Hi, I’m Talitha van Niekerk, and I made the leap to farm animal ownership when I decided to fulfil my lifelong passion to own horses. Now, over a decade later, I run a public stable facility on 180 acres of land, caring for over 75 horses of all breeds and sizes. I love to write about my experiences, sharing the knowledge I have gained and helping others achieve their life’s passion to live on the land. See my about page here.

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