Apparently These Sheep Can Recognize Emma Watson and Barack Obama

A sheep. Smarter than it looks

A sheep. Smarter than it looks. Wolfgang Kaehler LightRocket via Getty Images

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

At one end of the pen, they would see two photographs displayed on two computer screens and would receive a reward of food for choosing the photograph of the celebrity, by breaking an infrared beam near the screen. On one side would be an unknown person and on the other would be one of four celebrities. Sheep can recognise human faces, spot the facial features of their handlers, and can even distinguish newsreader Fiona Bruce from actress Emma Watson.

Many other animals are known to recognise the faces among their own species, while some - including macaques, horses, dogs, mockingbirds, and sheep - can identify individuals from other species too.

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For the initial training, the sheep received a food reward for choosing the face versus a blank screen.

Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs. "This current study adds an interesting new ability to the surprising wide repertoire of behaviour of sheep". "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.

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

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The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment.

Morton and her team recently began research on sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the mutation for Huntington's disease.

They then challenged the animals again, this time by showing them a picture of the same celebrity, but using a new photo of their face tilted at an angle.

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"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change", Morton said.

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