Scientists Find Sheep Can Recognize Human Faces

Sheep have a highly developed ability to recognise the faces of celebrities a new study has shown

But now, a relatively small study from University of Cambridge scientists shows that sheep might be joining that club.

The sheep were also able to recognize the celebrity faces when the person's head was at an angle rather than just straight on, though the scientists noted a drop in performance "of a magnitude similar to that seen when humans perform this task".

Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs.

"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.

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 woolly creatures could reliably pick out their human handlers without any previous photographic training at all, showing they can spot a familiar face. "I guess they have extended our work to show that sheep generalize viewpoints of the faces, which does require a rich representation of the identity".

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. The sheep were given food to create an association.

The sheep in the experiment have to decide which face is going to reward it with food.

The research isn't just a silly test, though. On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix.

According to the study, this ability has been shown before only in humans. "Either the human face is similar enough to the sheep face that [it] activates the sheep face-processing system, or human-face recognition relies on more general-purpose recognition systems".

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