What Animals Can’t Look Up? (And Why)

What Animals Can't Look Up
Fact Checked and Reviewed by: Mark Rhodes, Ph.D. - Wildlife Biologist
Dr. Mark Rhodes holds an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife along with a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology. He helps maintain our editorial standards of accuracy and quality. You can read more about Dr. Rhodes here.

Animals rely on their ability to see, hear, and smell the world around them to let them know when danger is near, where they can find food, and basically anything else that they need to know for survival.

When they can’t see what is going on in front, behind, and even above them, they have to rely on their other senses to let them know when danger is nearby.

So, what animals can’t look up?

Animals that can’t look up from a standing position include members of the Suidae family, like wild boars, domesticated pigs, warthogs, and other members of the family. Because of the physical anatomy of their neck and spine, they cannot move their head upward more than a few degrees, unless they’re laying down or sitting back.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the different members of the Suidae family that can’t look up, why they can’t look up, and how that has affected their survival in the wild.

What Animals Can’t Look Up?

As far as researchers know, domesticated pigs are one of the few animals that cannot look up and see the sky when in a standing position.

This has everything to do with the shape of the pig’s natural body and the excess fat and muscles around its neck. Neck fat plays an especially big role in the movement of farm pigs, who are fed diets to help them gain weight.

It’s also believed that wild boars, warthogs, and other members of the Suidae family can’t look straight up. That being said, wild pigs are sometimes thinner in the neck area than domesticated farm pigs, so they may have a better range of motion. While they cannot look up at the sky while standing, they do have a greater range of motion in their neck than farm pigs.

There are sixteen different species that have been identified in the Suidae family. They are native to Africa and Eurasia. Over time, however, these various pig species have spread all over the world.

In addition to being omnivorous and having a two-chambered stomach, members of this family are known for their barrel-shaped bodies, small ears, small eyes, and long snouts. Some members of this family include wild boar, pygmy hog, Vietnam warty pig, Javan pig, common warthog, and domesticated pig.

Why Can’t Pigs and Boars Look Up?

The reason that pigs and boars can’t look up is because of their physical anatomy. A pig’s body is rather round, with broad shoulders and a lot of neck fat. This, paired with the natural curvature of their spine, makes it impossible for a pig to look up more than a few degrees above its head while standing.

For humans, the area responsible for our ability to look up is the cervical spine. This is the curved area at the top of your spine where your neck is located. If you put your hand on the back of your neck and look straight up, you can feel the muscles that are moving.

For pigs, all that extra bulk around their neck makes it impossible to look up. Their spine also doesn’t have the same ability to curve upward at the top as a human’s spine does. Just imagine how impossible it would be to move your head if you had a bunch of muscles and neck fat in your way- it would drastically reduce your range of motion.

As you can see in the video this big piggy can play some tunes, but it hsd a harder time moving its large head upwards.

Since muscles and neck fat play such a big role in limiting movement, it is possible for some wild hogs to look up a little bit more than a domesticated farm pig. This could also change based on their diet, their environment, and how fat the wild pig is. Even so, you can expect that a wild pig needs to take a few steps back to be able to look up at a treetop to look for predators.

Are Wild Boars and Hogs at Greater Risk for Predators Because They Can’t Look Up?

No, pigs are not at a significantly greater risk for predators in the wild because they cannot look up. In fact, the inability to look up doesn’t seem to impact them very much.

Pigs spend the majority of the time with their nose pointed downward, particularly farm pigs that don’t really have any predators to worry about. They keep their nose to the ground and use their powerful sense of smell to look for food.

In the case of wild boars, warthogs, and similar animals, there isn’t the same restriction that is there with head movement. While they cannot look straight up, they do have more range of motion than a domesticated farm pig. Farm pigs are often fed so that they gain weight, whereas pigs in the wild aren’t nearly as fat.

Wild boars and warthogs do have several predators, as do most animals in the wild. They have to be vigilant because it’s a world of survival.

Some of their natural predators include eagles, alligators, jaguars, cheetahs, hyenas, lions, leopards, tigers, wolves, bears, and other big, predatory animals. It depends on their natural habitat and where they call home. Of course, humans that set traps are also a risk to wild animals. 

That being said, pigs have an incredible sense of hearing. In fact, their sense of hearing is so good that pigs are easily startled by loud noises. They also have an incredible sense of smell, which you’d expect with a nose like that.

Pigs naturally don’t have great vision, so their ability to not look up above them might not really impede them that much in the long run. Instead, they use their other powerful senses to help them survive in the wild.

What Animals Can’t See the Sky?

There are a lot of people who might say that because a pig can’t look up, it also cannot see the sky. However, if you’ve ever talked to a farmer, then you’d know that pigs absolutely can see the sky.

Even though they can’t look up from their typical standing position, they can sit back on their haunches, look straight up, and see the sky. They can also see the sky when laying down.

That being said, there are a lot of animals that spend their lives without looking at the sky. Animals like deep sea fish and other bottom dwellers don’t really leave the water, so they never see the sky- just the light that filters through (if any) from above.

There are also animals that live their lives deep in caves that don’t see the sky in their lifetime. And, if you want to get really technical, any animals that with really poor vision or are blind completely cannot see the sky either.

Final Word

So, what animals can’t look up? Domesticated pigs, wild hogs and boars, and other members of the Suidae family cannot look up at the sky when they are in a standing position.

However, even pigs can see the sky when laying down, sitting back on their haunches, or otherwise changing their body position.

While pigs and boars cannot look up in trees without taking several steps back, making them at risk for traps or predators, they do have exceptional smelling and hearing abilities. Being able to hear and smell alerts them of danger, while their sense of smell is an important tool for eating as well.