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Sheep can recognise human faces

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A sheep recognises Emma Watson's face- no trouble at all

A University of Cambridge study found that sheep can learn to recognize human faces. During one set of trials, they were made to discern between their handler (whose photo they'd never seen before) and a new face. The list of celebrity images contained former president Obama, actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson and British newsreader Fiona Bruce.

"We've shown that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", Professor Jenny Morton, who led the study, said in a statement.

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.

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

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

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"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change, particularly in sheep who carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease", she pointed out.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. "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. When a portrait of the handler was interspersed randomly, the sheep chose them seven out of 10 times.

The sheep were less successful at identifying the tilted celebrities but still performed better than chance. Training involved the sheep making decisions as they moved around a specially-designed pen. "Although I didn't think sheep could recognize emotion, it made me think about face recognition as a complex brain process".

Likewise, when the authors of the new study swapped celebrity photographs with those of the sheep's handlers, the farm animals needed no training.

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