On Friday an image from Chinese social network Weibo went viral, showing a smiling pig.
Experts have informed indy100 that the pig in question is more likely to be vocalising.
It emerged following flooding, and the arrival of a strong typhoon in Southern China this week.
Large waves crash against a sea wall by a housing estate in Heng Fa Chuen during the passing of tropical storm Pakhar, Hong Kong, China, 27 August 2017. Hong Kong and Macau are still reeling from the damage caused by Typhoon Hato which hit the region four days earlier. (Picture: EPA/ALEX HOFFORD)
A taxi drives through a flooded section of Hong Kong's Eastern corridor highway during the passing of tropical storm Pakhar, Hong Kong, China, 27 August 2017. (Picture: EPA/ALEX HOFFORD)
One image from the region has dominated social media.
A smiling pig.
Mail Online reports that image appeared on Weibo, and was taken in Yibin County, Sichuan Province.
The photo documented an evacuation of precious goods - which includes the (apparently) cheerful pig.
He shouldn't smile for long - he is only valuable as a future dinner.
According to China Plus, the photo was taken 17 August at a pig farm in Danliao Village, near to the city of Quinzhou.
The smiler was allegedly one of three pigs rescued.
Of course, reddit threw down the trotter gauntlet for an epic Photoshop battle.
One for literary fans:
Pig experts weigh in on porcine grimace
Leaving no stone unturned, indy100 contacted scientists at the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at the University of Newcastle.
It transpires that the pig 'grimace' is an ongoing area of study within the world of animal sciences.
However, it's unlikely this pig was smiling due to happiness at being rescued.
[There is] no evidence I know of that pigs show pleasure by smiling but they do have facial muscles and some expressions can show affective (emotional) state. Work on the pig 'grimace scale' is still at an early stage at various places around the world, but things like orbital tightening and cheek tension seem to be associated with pain as in other species. In general pigs communicate more by olfaction and vocalisation, but can also use body language (eg the bristling boar). The pig in the picture is more likely to be vocalising I suspect!
I can't imagine at that point while still in the water held up by its ears it was smiling (more of a face lift effect than a smile, and pigs' naturally turned up mouths), but it is great that animal emotion is being considered and recognised. It has been scientifically stated that animals no doubt do feel joy and relief.
Douglas explained the other ways that animals use facial expressions.
There are many subtle features of animal facial expression that we don't fully understand but are discovering , e.g. grimace scale in many species that we may not immediately think of as particularly "facially expressive" eg rabbit and cat(attached pig), and ear posture is important in other specie but not something we humans are particularly attuned to in each other. Sheep recognise rippley noses in their emotion and can discern between fearful sheep and otherwise, and angry and happy humans.
No longer are people being criticised for being too anthropomorphic (projecting human feelings onto animals), these now form the basis for hypotheses, the more we find out about animal's cognitive abilities and emotional experiences, the more this is considered intelligent empathy.