Sheep can recognise human faces

Sheep can recognise human faces

Sheep can recognise human faces

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

A sheep correctly picking the photo of Emma Watson.

The sheep picked the celebrity's face eight times out of 10.

"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.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys".

The sheep made the correct choice of celebrity or handler roughly 70 percent of the time on average.

The animal's "ability to learn to recognise a person from a 2D (two-dimensional) photograph was surprising, since this requires complex brain processing", said Morton. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species. 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.

"Humans do tend to underestimate the ability of sheep", Morton said by email.

The woolly creatures could reliably pick out their human handlers without any previous photographic training at all, showing they can spot a familiar face.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. The research could even help with research into neurological diseases. "My guess is that the ability of sheep to recognize human faces is a by-product of selection to discriminate between different sheep faces", he says.

"Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".

"If this is the case, we can use the test to measure the beneficial effect of new treatments".

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