A survey discovered that goats have the ability to identify when the humans are feeling happy or angry, and they prefer those who are smiling over others.
The study done by The Royal Society was conducted to determine the intelligence of goats in understanding human cues and stimulations. The research used 35 goats from a goat sanctuary in the United Kingdom.
The researchers first showed the goats images of people’s happy expressions and then showed them the images of sad expressions on the same human faces. Both male and female faces were used for various trials.
The goats were released into a pen from a gate opposite to the location of both images. The researchers then observed the goats’ interactions with each image to make an estimation of their preferences.
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It was found that the goats’ first interactions were more with those human faces which had positive emotions of happiness and had a smile. They tended to spend more time with the happy expressions rather than angry faces.
After several trials, the researchers concluded that ‘goats can distinguish between happy and angry images of the same person, indicating that they can visually differentiate human faces conveying different emotional valences.’
The Royal Society’s study is one of the first research to suggest that domesticated farm animals such as goats, which aren't bred to interact with humans in the way dogs and horses are done, can also understand human facial communication cues.
Previously, a study conducted on horses discovered that they possessed social intelligence while reacting to human angry expressions. They showed signs of increased heart-rate and a gaze to the left, which is considered a typical reaction of a horse to the negative stimuli.
Yet another research conducted on dogs also discovered that they are extremely intelligent at perceiving human facial communication cues because they are too much used to being domesticized.
The information that even goats can understand some kind of human facial communication should come as a great news for people who find these farm animals adorable.
If you are one of those, here is a related story about an overjoyed baby goat who cannot stop jumping up and down.