Social Rank and Disease Susceptibility in Pigs

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 1994 Nov;43(4):373-87. doi: 10.1016/0165-2427(94)90158-9.


Two experiments were carried out to investigate the inter-individual variation in immune reactivity and disease susceptibility of group housed pigs of different social status. The social status of the individual pig was determined by the outcome of social ranking fights and food competition tests. On Day 75 after the start of both experiments, all pigs were challenged with 0.5 ml of an Aujeszky disease virus (ADV) in each nostril. Data combined from both experiments showed that mortality and/or morbidity after the ADV challenge was highest among subordinates. In both experiments, a lymphocyte proliferation assay, using purified ADV as an antigenic stimulus, showed that dominant pigs had significantly higher counts per minute than subdominant and subordinate pigs. Kendall's partial correlations showed that morbidity had been associated with high values in haematological and clinicochemical blood parameters and not with social status of the individual pig. In each experiment, maternal derived antibodies against the ADV and the antibody level after the ADV challenge hardly differed between pigs of different social status. Major histocompatibility complex typing of class I and II by iso-electro focusing of all pigs in Experiment 2 showed that not all haplotypes were distributed equally among dominant, subdominant and subordinate pigs. The present work shows that there are large individual differences in immune reactivity and disease susceptibility which appear to be related to the social status of the individual pig in a stable social structure.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility / immunology
  • Disease Susceptibility / veterinary
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 1, Suid / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / analysis
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / analysis
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Pseudorabies / immunology*
  • Pseudorabies / psychology
  • Social Dominance*
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology
  • Stress, Physiological / veterinary
  • Swine
  • Swine Diseases / immunology*
  • Swine Diseases / psychology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II