Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

Those celebrities were journalist Fiona Bruce, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, former US President Barack Obama and actress Emma Watson.

Many other animals are known to recognise the faces among their own species, while some - including macaques, horses, dogs, mockingbirds, and sheep - can identify individuals from other species too.

That means the sheep were not just memorizing images, demonstrating for the first time that sheep have advanced face-recognition capabilities similar to those of humans and other primates, say neurobiologist Jennifer Morton and her colleagues. Then, during the trials, the sheep were released into a pen where they had to discern between the familiar faces and an object or an unfamiliar face.

In a fifth, and final task, the sheep were shown a photograph of their day-to-day handler - who they know well but have never seen a picture of - next to that of an unknown person.

"Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys". Their ability increased with training but dropped when the face was tilted.




At one end of the pen, they would see two photographs displayed on two computer screens and would receive a reward of food for choosing the photograph of the celebrity, by breaking an infrared beam near the screen.

The sheep were able to pick out the celebrities and earn the food reward 8 out of 10 times.

If you ever find yourself in the company of sheep, don't be surprised if they seem to recognize you.

Finally, the researchers looked at whether sheep were able to recognise a handler without pre-training. The results were published Wednesday in the Royal Society's Open Science journal as part of research looking into cognitive ability and neurodegenerative disorders, like Huntington's disease, which can impair people's ability to recognize facial emotion. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times.

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