SE - Goats prefer happy people

Goats at the Buttercups Sanctuary 3- Credit Christian Nawroth

Goats at the Buttercups Sanctuary 3- Credit Christian Nawroth

The scientists put 20 goats into a pen that was filled with photos of humans with happy faces and humans with sad or angry faces.

They hope to perform similar studies in goats that are unfamiliar with humans, or goats that don't live happily in sanctuaries.

According to the team, the happy faces got greater interactions from the goats, who were more eager to approach and explore the images with their snouts. The researchers say that's in part because goats and other domesticated mammals process positive emotions in the brain's left hemisphere.

"The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets."

Goats were already known to be sensitive to human body language, but the new findings show they also respond to emotional facial expressions.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, claims to provide the first evidence of goats reading human emotional expression.

It implies that it is not just companion animals, such as dogs and horses, that have an ability to perceive facial cues.

Dr Alan Mc Elligott with goat- Credit Alan McElligott
Image Dr Alan Mc Elligott smiling with goat. Pic Alan McElligott

The research has implications for understanding how animals process human emotions. The person who gave the goats their pasta maintained a neutral facial expression and looked at the ground during this part.

"That means that goats spend approximately 50 percent more time to look and interact with happy images compared to angry ones".

Not only can goats tell when people are happy, but they also prefer interacting with happy people.

Co-author Natalia Albuquerque, from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said: "The study of emotion perception has already shown very complex abilities in dogs and horses".

The study builds on the field exploring the inner lives of domesticated animals.

In the first study to ever assess this on goats, researchers explain that goats can differentiate between happy and angry facial reactions, and they prefer happy ones.

"Not only can they distinguish them, but they also generally prefer happy faces, regardless of the gender of the human faces or the sex of the goats".

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