Asahiyama Zoo’s intelligent pigs, Yuzu and Ume pit their wits with their keeper

The pig skillfully eats the food by shaking it from the feeder with its snout

Asahiyama Zoo has two ‘rare’ animals on display. They are pigs from the ‘No.2 Children’s Farm’ and their names are Yuzu and Ume. Both are 4-year-old females. When you see them, the common image of pigs “just eating and sleeping” will change. They are highly intelligent and have a mischievous side, breaking down the fences in their pens so that their keeper spends his days pitting his wits with against the pigs.

The two animals were born on a pig farm in Asahikawa and came to Asahiyama Zoo in 2018. On the theme of ‘food education,’ the zoo aims to encourage visitors to think about food and life, by seeing at close range livestock that is raised for food. The pigs weighed about 30 kg each when they arrived at the zoo and have now grown to about 170 kg.
From the start, raising the pigs has been a continuous process of trial and error. Visitors to the zoo are able to see how intelligent they are. From around 2020, feeders made from of plastic tanks and other materials were installed in the pen. The feeders, which are supposed to feed the pigs when they poke them with their snouts, have been destroyed many times.

Even though the pigs have destroyed the feeders, which took a great deal of ingenuity and effort to make, their keeper, Mr. Saga, says, “Every time they break them, I learn how smart they are. It’s fun to think of different ways to feed them.” The current, third generation feeder is hung at a height just low enough for the pigs to reach with their snouts. There is a hole near the bottom, and when the pigs shake it with their snouts, food falls out. So far, Mr. Saga’s wisdom has prevailed and the two animals have not destroyed it.
“Many people are familiar with ‘meat for consumption,’ but they have few opportunities to actually see pigs and are not familiar with them. Through the two animals at Asahiyama Zoo, I hope people will learn about the intelligence of pigs and become aware of the fact that we are taking their lives,” says Mr. Saga.


Asahiyama Zoo