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Goats reacted differently to happy faces than to angry faces

Goats reacted differently to happy faces than to angry faces

Twenty goats at a sanctuary called Buttercups in Kent, England, were used by researches from London and Brazil to see if the animals could differentiate between a friendly human face and an angry one.

While the ability to recognise emotion is already known about in species with a long history of human interaction, such as dogs and horses, the new study provides the first evidence that the trait exists more broadly.

Barnard the goat, one of the animals tested in the study, stands in a field of flowers at the Buttercups Sanctuary.

The study could also have implications for animal welfare, helping change perceptions of these livestock animals by highlighting their responsive nature.

Get out there and smile at a goat if you get the chance!

The effect was most obvious when the happy face was positioned on the right side of the testing area.

When shown two images of an unfamiliar person, one with a happy face and one with an angry face, the goats approached and explored the happy faces with their snouts.

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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".

"In addition, facial expressions are also prevalent in non-human animals and the question of whether and how animals perceive emotional facial expressions is of major interest to understand their underlying ultimate functions and origin".

Instead, he reports, "they actually do stop and look at the faces".

"However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions".

"For dogs, for example, the left-hemisphere of the brain process more positive emotions which can induce to a right gaze bias".

Contrasted with horses, goats don't have as much close contact with humans, notwithstanding being one of the most punctual animals tamed for domesticated animals.

Step aside, dogs - goats may be man's new best friend, according to a heartwarming new study. "But the goats really seemed to stop and take time to investigate".

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