No kidding: goats prefer smiles

The domesticated mammals gravitate towards happy people, according to research carried out at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent


Queen Mary University of London researchers have delved into how goats differentiate between facial expressions.

Research published in Royal Society Open Science found that the ruminants are capable of differentiating between positive and negative expressions in humans.

When 20 goats at a Kent sanctuary were shown pictures of happy and angry people, the researchers found that the goats preferred to look at, and interact with, the photos of positive facial expressions.

Dr Christian Nawroth, who worked on the study at Queen Mary University of London and is now based at the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, said that it is accepted that goats are attuned to human body language.

“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," he highlighted.

The research suggests that the ability to interpret and respond to human facial cues is not limited to animals with a long history of domestication as pets, such as cats and dogs.

Image credit: Alastair Smith