Study Finds Sheep Can Recognize Human Faces

Posted on November 8, 2017

Sheep examining human faces in study

A study has found that sheep have the ability to recognize human faces. Sheep can identify a picture of their handler without any prior training. The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The researchers say the facial recognition skills of sheep are comparable to those of humans and monkeys.

Professor Jenny Morton, who led the study, says in the announcement, "Anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals who are able to recognize their handlers. We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys. Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys. That means they can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain, such as Huntington’s disease, that develop over a long time and affect cognitive abilities. Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change, particularly in sheep who carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease."

Here's a video of the sheep study in action with a sheep examining two different celebrity faces and obtaining a reward when it picks the correct face. The sheep earned a reward of food for choosing the photograph of the correct celebrity (by breaking an infrared beam near the screen). If the sheep chose the wrong photograph, a buzzer would sound and they would receive no reward at all.

A research paper on the study was published here in the journal, Royal Society Open Science. This sheep is going to very excited and expect a yummy treat should it ever meet Emma Watson or President Obama. Take a look:

Image: University of Cambridge/Youtube

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