Why do Some Pigs Wear Nose Rings?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Some farmers install nose rings on their pigs to inhibit a behavior known as rooting. When pigs root, they use their noses to burrow into the ground, turning it over to expose material of interest. While rooting is an entirely natural behavior, it can be very destructive, and pig rings are used to reduce the overall damage which can be caused by pigs. Not all farmers use pig rings, and there is some debate over their use.

Nose rings prevent pigs from rooting and destroying fields.
Nose rings prevent pigs from rooting and destroying fields.

Unlike cattle rings, which are inserted through a piercing made by a veterinarian, pig nose rings are usually simply clipped on. The ring makes it hard to root, because it gets in the way of the nose and causes pain if the pig persists in rubbing its nose in the soil. Eventually, the clip on ring may slide off, requiring replacement, and some farmers clip multiple rings onto the pig's nose to reduce the need to handle the pig for ring replacements.

Not all farmers use pig rings, and there is some debate over their use.
Not all farmers use pig rings, and there is some debate over their use.

When pigs are kept entirely indoors, the rings can be critical for protecting the health of the pigs, because they will become stressed and engage in rooting behavior, even if their pens are made entirely from concrete and other hard materials. A pig may scratch its nose up in the process of trying to engage in a natural behavior, raising the risk of potential infections in the pig. Nose rings can also reduce fighting among indoor pigs.

For pigs that are kept outdoors, rings prevent damage to pastures where the pigs range. Pigs are curious animals, and they tend to tear up confined pastures to express their boredom, and to look for items of nutritional value or interest. Using larger pastures and rotating pigs can reduce rooting damage, but nose rings may also become necessary. In areas where pigs are allowed to roam on public lands, a tradition known as pannage, rings may be required for loose pigs so that the animals do not damage common areas.

Some people argue that nose rings are inhumane, because they cause pain and suffering to the pigs. Inhibiting a natural behavior can create psychological problems, especially in pigs which are kept in close quarters, and the use of rings also prevents pigs from supplementing their diet with nutrition they find in the earth, which can be a major problem if pigs are not fed a balanced diet. Other people argue that the devices are sometimes a necessary part of pig husbandry, and that when installed competently, they should not cause undue distress.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


How do I know if my pig's ring has become infected? One pig is fine and has bounced back, but the other is still finding it painful and has froth on either sides of his mouth. Advice needed!


Regarding their "ultimate end:" the slaughter of livestock is done according to regulations which are intended to prevent the undue suffering of the animals. They feel as little pain as possible at their "ultimate end."

Regarding the "halfway on" comment; nowhere in this article, or any other I've ever read, nor according to any pig farmers I've spoken with, is there any reference to putting a nose ring halfway on. They are clipped on, as opposed to pierced. Just as a clip on human earring is not a piercing "halfway on."


Most of these pigs are raised for slaughter and I don't think it would hurt them any more than their ultimate end.


It may seem cruel to put a ring on a pig, but isn't it worse to have them make their noses all bloody scraping on the floor, or fighting with each other?

I think that as long as the nose ring hoops are put on properly, and the farmer checks to make sure it's not hurting the pig, then there's no reason not to use them, I think.


I wonder if you could accomplish the same thing via another method -- I mean, surely there's a way to keep pigs from rooting other than using nose rings and hoops?

I don't know, I'm not a pig person, but that does seem somewhat counterproductive.


Are the nose rigs they use on pigs the same kind of hoop nose rings used on studs (breeding bulls)? And if so, what's the point of not installing it all the way? I can certainly understand wanting to keep the pigs from rooting, but it does seem cruel to just put it on halfway -- anybody who's ever tried to put an earring or nose ring in and had it get stuck halfway can tell you, that does not feel good! And I'm sure that pig nose rings aren't the 1mm nose rings used for people.

Besides, if it's really that psychologically disturbing to the pig, then what's the point? It won't be good for eating because stressed animals produce poor meat, and it won't be good for anything else either because it's so unhappy.

Maybe I just don't get it, but that's how I feel.


I heard a farmer putting rings in a pig's nose yesterday and the sound was absolutely heartbreaking. The stress that the farmer caused that animal, it was barbaric! After reading the information on this website it has made me feel a little bit better! Thanks.

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