Who is really man's best friend? With the rise in veganism and conscientious living, people's love for animals is quickly growing beyond the usual cats and dogs. While in the past there was a clear distinction between farm animals and domestic pets, that line is constantly getting blurrier as we learn more about animals.
It's easy to look at something like a cow or a goat and think that they are just brainless, dirty animals. They might be both of those things to a degree, but what we're finding out is that they are much more than that. These are creatures with feelings and emotions just like us humans.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think goats? Maybe it's that you think they are cute, but most people would describe them as simple farm animals. It turns out there is more to goats than meets the eye. Goats might become your new favorite animal when you find out that they like it when you smile at them.
The study that found out this incredible fact was done by scientists at the Queen Mary University of London and later published in the journal of Royal Society Open Science. The point of the study was to study the effects of facial cues on animals other than companion animals like dogs and horses. The study examined how 20 goats reacted to different facial cues from humans.
As if the study needed to be any more adorable, it took place at a Goat sanctuary in Kent, Michigan called Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats. It was performed by showing goats both a frowning and smiling picture of the same person. The goats were much more likely to show positive behavior to the smiling picture, and especially more likely if the picture was on the right side of the pen.
"[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," said the leader of the study, Dr. Alan McElligott. While it may seem obvious that animals would perceive out emotions, when is the last time you smiled at a goat?
Dr. Christian Nawroth, one of the paper's authors, also added, "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. Here, we show for the first time that goats do not only distinguish between these expressions, but they also prefer to interact with happy ones." The work is important because it helps us better understand how we can communicate with animals.
The study is quite odd, and a little humorous, but it is an important step forward in the pursuit of understanding animal behavior. As far as the usefulness of the study, Natalia Albuquerque, one of the co-authors, had this to say: "The study of emotion perception has already shown very complex abilities in dogs and horses. However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions. Our results open new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals."
The information gained from the study can help us communicate with animals beyond the usual domestic animals we are accustomed to communicating with. Whether or not that will save goats from becoming your next meal is yet to be determined. How would you apply this knowledge? Become a goat farmer? Your cheeks might get tired from all the smiling.