A scientific study I read about recently concluded that goats prefer humans who smile. That makes me smile. First, goats are rather funny, jumpy creatures that have been getting a lot of Internet attention as illustrated by this article with videos on goats in pajamas and goat yoga. Second, I am fascinated by quirky studies, and third, I love research that shows we ought to pay closer attention to what animals understand.
In this study, the researchers observed how 20 goats reacted to pairs of black-and-white images of unfamiliar people displaying happy and sad expressions. “The goats spent 50 percent more time approaching and nudging the happy-face photos, and in just over half of the trials, they interacted with the happy face first,” according to the study’s co-author Natalia Albuquerque. This is significant, she said, because while other animals had shown they could recognize human faces, only dogs and horses had previously demonstrated an ability to differentiate between expressions.”
But is this a universal goat skill? Or was it influenced by the fact that all of the goats in the study were residents “of the friendly-face-filled Buttercups Sanctuary in southeast England”?
Frankly, I don’t care. There is something reassuring about goats liking smiley faces. Maybe now when you meet an old goat, you can turn his day around with a grin.
Oh, and just in case you want more, check out this video of sheep who have been taught to recognize celebrities.