Sheep can recognise human faces


Sheep are known for their sociability, but this showed - with some training - the sheep could not only recognize fellow sheep and humans they knew, but process images of faces. Scientists now found that that ability can be applied to photos of famous faces, too, Sky News reported.

A sheep correctly picking the photo of Emma Watson.

The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment.

"Together these data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates".

"We chose these people because there were lots of images of each person available on line, both front-on and taken at different angles", study co-author Jennifer Morton of the University of Cambridge told AFP.

They then challenged the animals again, this time by showing them a picture of the same celebrity, but using a new photo of their face tilted at an angle.

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"We focused on whether or not an animal was capable of processing a two-dimensional object as a person", Morton added.

Obviously the study focused on only eight domestic sheep, and it does mention some potential alternative interpretations of the data.

In a final test, the sheep had to choose between a picture of one of their handlers' faces and an unfamiliar face. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species.

According to the study, this ability has been shown before only in humans. The research could even help with research into neurological diseases.

A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients.

Recognizing faces is one of the most important social skills for human beings, and some disorders of the brain, including Huntington's disease, affect this ability.