Tail-biting data from different studies are difficult to compare because a range of definitions of tail-biting behaviour and tail-biting lesions are used. Although records from abattoirs provide a large database, their usefulness is restricted as tail-biting is under-recorded and environmental and husbandry factors associated with the behaviour are unlikely to be known. Both farm and abattoir data provide no information on the number of pigs biting, only those bitten. Studying individual animals that tail-bite should give a better understanding of the pig's motivation to tail-bite and which of the components of its environment should be adjusted to improve welfare. This review examines the existing literature on tail-biting in pigs but considered from a new perspective using three different descriptive behavioural types, namely, 'two-stage', 'sudden-forceful' and 'obsessive', each of which may have different motivational bases. The article also considers the different environmental and husbandry factors which may affect each type of behaviour and discusses why this is such a complicated field and why it is often difficult to draw conclusions from available research.