Although some goats do not consider themselves the most intuitive animals, they have a keen sense of whether people are happy or angry. Indeed, new research has found that they not only understand these emotions, but also prefer to be people who smile. Can you blame them?
The study published by The Royal Society used 35 goats from a goat sanctuary in the UK as their subjects. The herd was shown as a happy or angry expression. The pictures were placed on either side of a goat's stable, tempting the animals to approach one side or the other.
The researchers identified the interactions of the goats with the images and tried to find out how intelligent the goats were in understanding human social signals. What they found was that the goats were first drawn to the positive faces, spending more time around the happy pictures instead of the angry ones.
"We present the first evidence that goats can distinguish human facial expressions with different emotional information," the researchers concluded. "Not only can you differentiate them, they also like happy faces, regardless of the gender of the human faces or the sex of the goats." Who would not prefer a happy face?
Goats are not the only ones who can read the features of humans. Horses and dogs can also differentiate between happy and not so happy people. In fact, horses increase heart rate when they see angry human faces. They also remember the emotional expressions of certain people with whom they have spent time.
While animals such as horses and dogs are known to read facial expressions of humans, they have been specially bred for interaction with People, Goats, on the other hand, were mainly specialized in pigmentation, stature and milking ability. This study has shown that the understanding of animals for humans goes far beyond the companion or the work animals – an amazing finding that is likely to be the springboard for further important research.