Goat yoga, goat in pajamas, goats in trees, selfies with goats – somehow we’ve managed to turn these furry little creatures into a major trend. And there’s no one to blame for that, if we’re thinking on their faces. Now it turns out that not only are goats adorable, but they might even be able to process and react to human facial expressions.
In a recent study published by the storied Royal Society, a group of scientists from the U.K, Brazil, and Germany concluded that goats prefer happy human faces to sad ones. The researchers also wanted to find out if the domesticated creatures could distinguish human facial expressions at all. I mean, do goats care about our mood?
And it turns out that facial expressions are great sources of social information and help us understand how to deal with the people around us. At the very least, it would be interesting to know if animals experience the same thing. After all, we all know that dogs and even horses can distinguish human facial expressions. That’s part of what makes them such good companions. And it seems that this works for goats too. after all, who wants to be around an sad or angry human?
Even if the goats have fewer face muscles than other animals, many do still have facial expressions as well as other unique ways of expressing emotions. But the researchers wanted to know if interspecies face reading was possible in goats, which aren’t bred to be companion animals. So they showed their sweet little subjects two images of an unfamiliar human, one with a happy face and the other looking angry.
When released into an enclosure, the goats saw both photos and the researchers watched to see how they reacted. Needless to say no goats were harmed in this study. It was carried out at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in the UK on 35 goats who had already spent quite a bit of time around humans. It turns out the goats preferred to be near and spend more time interacting with the happy photo.
The study concludes that even animals without a long history of domestication can perceive our emotions – that’s something we didn’t expect since there’s no reason animals that haven’t evolved in the presence of humans should care how we feel. Therefore it’s safe to say that it would be nice of you to smile at the next goat you see if you want to make a good impression!