Goats prefer happy faces, study finds

Bernard the goat being offered a smiling and angry face

Bernard the goat being offered a smiling and angry face

You may not be able to tell when they're busy chomping down on everything in sight, but goats possess advanced cognitive abilities.

If you want to make friends with a goat, then stitch on a smile, turn that frown upside down ... and keep to their right.

After years of living around humans, goats may have learned to read and respond to facial expressions, a new study said - and they seem to like happy people better.

Images of both were placed in an enclosed area, and researchers systematically guided the goats into the vicinity where the images were.

They can climb near verticle mountains to reach salt at the summit that they love to snack on, and are said to be among the cleverest of animals.

But what about domesticated farm animals, such as goats, pigs and cows?

During the training sessions, the experimenter with the pasta maintained a neutral expression and looked down at the ground. "And the goats were released on one side of a small enclosure a few meters across and they had to go across the enclosure". That works for creating a positive impression on other people. The team conducted four experimental sessions.

When the happy photos were placed on the left, the goats showed no significant preference either way.

The paper's first author, Dr Christian Nawroth, said: "We already knew that goats are very attuned to human body language, but we did not know how they react to different human emotional expressions, such as anger and happiness". The animals also tended to spend more time sniffing smiling faces than frowning ones.

The research by scientists at Queen Mary University of London provides the first evidence of how goats process human emotional expressions.

Bernard the goat clearly likes happy people.

The researchers think this is because the goats are using one side of their brain to process the information - something that's seen in other animals.

The research team is continuing further research, they said, to find "other ways that goats might communicate with humans".

She added, "Our results open new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals".

According to Savalli Redigolo, the findings "should raise discussions about how we manage and treat these animals".

Researchers think the study could be important for animal welfare if it shows that animals understand emotions more than they thought.

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