Scientists at Queen Mary University of London recently found that goats might be as smart as dogs ― at least when it comes to communicating with their humans to solve a puzzle that leads to a big treat, says a study published July 5 in the journal Biology Letters.
This particular communication between people and animals happens through gaze and it’s quite rare: The animals turn to look at humans intentionally when they need help solving a problem. In this case, though, their problems were hardly more complicated than opening a box containing food.
Only a few species apparently show this communication skill ― especially dogs. That’s likely due to the thousands of years (estimates suggest up to 30,000 years) they have lived with humans as domesticated animals. Horses, too, are great at communicating through gaze.
Cats, on the other hand, perform poorly in experiments trying to assess this communication skill, research suggests. (But cats are notoriously unwilling study participants, and cat owners are familiar with the fierce gaze they throw at you when they need food.)
All of those animals have lived as human companions for millennia, so it’s not necessarily surprising that they may have picked up a thing or two during this long relationship.
But what about goats, creatures that also have a long history of being near humans but are bred almost solely for food purposes, rather than companionship?
To investigate, study co-author Christian Nawroth and his colleagues trained goats to remove a lid from a box to receive a treat. After letting the goats get their tasty rewards for a few rounds, the researcher closed the lid permanently and watched what the confused goats did.
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