Sheep are surprisingly smart. New research from the University of Cambridge shows the animals can learn to recognise people from photographs, even people they’ve never seen in real life, such as celebrities.
The researchers tested the sheeps’ recognition abilities using images of famous people including Barack Obama, actors Emma Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal, and UK newsreader Fiona Bruce. While this is an amusing way to demonstrate what sheep can do, the research could actually have serious uses.
For one thing, increasing our understanding of sheep’s perceptual abilities could be used to argue for improved animal welfare. But sheep are also being used as models for understanding brain disorders such as Huntingdon’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, along with psychiatric disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. So learning more about their cognitive capacities could aid the work in this field.