Boardgames in the News: How to attract a Goat

It has been shown previously that dogs and horses have the ability to discriminate human emotional facial expressions.  This is thought to be a by-product of their close working relationships with humans during domestication.  Because dogs and horses are required to work together an understanding of human emotional facial expressions is actively an advantage making the attribute self-selecting.  In contrast, goats have been exclusively domesticated as production animals and as such are less likely to have been selected for reading subtle communicative cues from humans.  A study carried out at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, suggests otherwise however.

A Goat
– Image from

A total of twenty goats were tested (eight females and twelve males), receiving a total of four test trials each.  Each trial consisted of a pairs of greyscale still human faces of the same individual showing positive (happy) and negative (angry) facial expressions and over all the trials, the goats’ first interactions were more often with the positive image.  They also tended to spend more time with the positive image compared to the negative one, indicating that goats can distinguish between human faces conveying different emotions.  These results suggest that goats are attracted to “happy faces”, and have been reported by McElligott and co-workers in the Royal Society journal Open Science.1

A Flock of boardGOATS
– Image by boardGOATS

1 Nawroth, C., Albuquerque, N., Savalli, C., Single, M-S., McElligott, A. G., R. Soc. Open. Sci. (2018), 5, 180491; doi:10.1098/rsos.180491.

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