A study published by The Royal Society has proven that goats are too good for this world. According to research goats have a keen sense of when people are happy and when they are angry. It does not stop at understanding human emotions, but the goats in the experiment also preferred to be surrounded by people who are happy and smiling. A study was carried out with 35 goats from a goat sanctuary just to prove this theory.
While they initially wanted to use 35 goats they ended up using only 20 goats, 12 female and 8 males. Because 15 of the goats could not be trained to walk across the enclosure to conduct the facial recognition tests. They used images of a person when they are smiling and when they are angry. The two pictures were then placed on opposite sides of the pen and the goats were left to approach one side or the other. According to the researcher’s amusement, the goats in the study were drawn more to the smiling faces and spent more time around the smiling faces rather than around the angry faces.
Before the study, horses and dogs were the only animals that were thought to understand human expressions. Actually it was revealed that dogs can actually understand what you are saying. It is about time we added goats to that list too. The leading researcher says that he is not surprised with the results because goat farmers were well aware that goats are pretty smart and prefer happy people.
Why conduct the experiment?
The experiment was conducted my Alan McElligott who is an associate professor in animal behavior at the University of Roehampton in London. He conducted the study because he believed that most people believe that goats are kind of stupid and they just roam around eating whatever they come across. People tend to underestimate the cognitive ability of goats and he wanted people to realize the importance of treating them nicely. He strives to create awareness that goats are not like planks of wood, they have an advanced cognitive ability. The research should serve as a reminder that a simple smile does not just make a difference to humans but also to goats.
The study might seem fun and interesting but it also raises a few questions about how different animals perceive human emotional expressions. The study can have an implication on how we, humans, interact with other species and livestock. Goats were domesticated about 10,000 years ago in Western Iran. The main aim of domesticating goats was for milk, fur, dung and meat. The breeding of the goats was mostly based on their milk production and stature rather than how much they cooperated with humans. This was different from the domestication of other animals such as horses and dogs. Therefore, this study suggests that socio cognitive adaptations to life with the humans was not just limited to the animals that worked with humans or those that offered companion ship but it might be more wide spread than it was previously assumed.