Many paint sheep with the ‘stupid’ brush, but a new study has revealed that sheep might be a lot smarter than we previously thought.
The study, carried out by Cambridge University, has said that sheep are in fact much smarter than we give them credit. Sheep can recognize human faces as well as different facial features their handlers may have. So smart is the sheep, they can even tell celebrities apart.
The study conducted many tests, and sheep were even able to tell Emma Watson from Fiona Bruce. The sheep, used in the study, were rewarded for every right answer with some food. They were shown pictures from celebrities such as Watson, Barack Obama, and even Jake Gyllenhaal. Sheep proved they are a smart species after all, with them coming out trumps in identifying the celebs.
So smart are sheep, they could even tell when a picture had been doctored or taken from a completely different angle. This has stunned scientists, who previously believed that humans and primates were the only species capable of this. Even when shown pictures of their handlers, the sheep immediately recognized them before walking over to the image.
Professor Jenny Morton, one of those involved in the study, said this is merely confirmation of a sheep’s intelligence to those who work daily with them.
“Anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals who are able to recognize their handlers,” she said
“We’ve shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys,” she added.
Professor Morton said that sheep’s brains could now be comparable to that of a monkey, noting that they are similar in size and complexity.
“Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys.”
Sheep, like other animals, are social animals and can even recognize other sheep they know. Eight sheep were trained, as part of the study, to recognize the faces of four famous celebrities and the results were phenomenal. In total 80% of the sheep successfully identified Journalist Fiona Bruce!
The sheep were first trained on how to make decisions during the test, that is moving around the special pen. At one end of the pen, there were two photographs shown on computer screens, with a reward given id they chose the picture of the celebrity. They did by breaking an infrared beam beside the screens.
If they chose the wrong answer then a buzzer would sound, with no reward given. Over time the sheep became aware that choosing a celebrity’s picture would result in an award. After training was complete, the sheep were ready to go and were shown a celebrity picture, along with another random face. The sheep were able to correctly identify 80% of the pictures correctly, proving they are a smart act after all.
In the next part of the test, the sheep were then shown the faces at an angle. As was expected, the sheep performed slightly worse, with 65% correct answers. The scientists involved in the study say this number is comparable with a human’s ability to perform the task.
The next part of the test was to see if the sheep could identify their handler, without training. Upon putting the handler’s photographs on the screen, the sheep were able to correctly chose their picture 70% of the time.
Although this proves sheep are in fact very clever, the leading researcher of the study says they would not be able to pick a sheep thief out of a line out.
“I don’t think sheep are going to become important police witnesses somehow...They might recognize somebody, but how could you test that? I don’t think it would be feasible.” said Professor Jenny Morton.
“Future studies might use emotional responses to faces in sheep to study, for example, stress. One could ask, does a stressed sheep respond differently to a human face.” she added.
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