Goats love happy people, can read your expressions

A new study has found the first evidence that goats respond differently to happy and angry humans

"Dogs are very skilful at perceiving human communicative cues, and they can also integrate visual and acoustic emotional information", says Savalli Redigolo "Horses also seem to perceive and differentiate emotional valences from human faces". But don't expect to make friends with a goat if you scowl at it. Be that as it may, this new investigation proposes that, regardless of living on the edges of human culture, goats have a remarkable capacity with respect to recognizing, at any rate, some essential human feelings.

The study, which was carried out at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent, involved the researchers showing goats pairs of unfamiliar grey-scale static human faces of the same individual showing happy and angry facial expressions.

The new study is the first to indicate that farm animals such as goats, which have not been bred specifically to interact with humans, can also understand human expressions.

Strictly speaking, the study notes, instead of preferring happy faces, the goats could be avoiding the angry ones.

Twenty goats - 12 male and 8 female - were shown images of people with happy and angry expressions before being placed on separate sides of a large pen.

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"These results challenge the idea that such socio-cognitive adaptations are limited to companion or working animals, such as dogs and horses, and therefore it is possible that goats may also possess the ability to perceive more subtle communicative cues, such as human facial expressions that are linked to emotions", the study authors said.

The research has implications for understanding how animals process human emotions.

The study builds on the field exploring the inner lives of domesticated animals. This was particularly the case when the happy faces were positioned on the right of the test arena suggesting that goats use the left hemisphere of their brains to process positive emotion.

They are also used for research models in biological studies, to pull carts and for pack animals.

A study by scientists at Queen Mary University of London provided evidence that goats read human emotional expressions.

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