Science

Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

Every time an animal picked the celebrity face instead of a different image on a second screen, it would get a food reward. They were able to identify the faces of celebrities at different angles (although there was a decrease in performance of about 15%), demonstrating that they are not stupid.

"These data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates", claims the study, published today in Royal Society Open Science.

The team got success after few days of tutelage of sheep at the Cambridge University in England, where at least 8 sheep could recognize Obama by his picture. That's what scientists discovered through testing sheep by showing them celebrity portraits.

Earlier studies showed that sheep can recognize their trainers' faces and the faces of other individual sheep in their herd.

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Over a series of four training sessions, the sheep's ability to choose a familiar face, represented by one of the four celebrities, over a completely unfamiliar face improved.

In addition to being shown images of the celebrities facing forward, scientists also tested the animals' ability to recognize the faces in photographs taken from other angles.

In a final test, the sheep had to choose between a picture of one of their handlers' faces and an unfamiliar face. My 2001 paper looked very carefully at this with a wider range of stimuli, more sheep and more conditions. On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix. The photo recognition experiment gives scientists a way to track changes in the cognitive abilities of sheep with a gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease.