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Smile, Billy! New study says goats prefer humans with happy faces

Goats prefer happy humans as opposed to sad ones, according to a new study.
Goats prefer happy humans as opposed to sad ones, according to a new study.
Roman Naumov, 76852661

SALT LAKE CITY — Goats prefer happy humans as opposed to sad ones, according to a new study.

Anyone visiting goats will want to put on their happy face. A new study published in the Royal Open Society found that goats have learned how to read and respond to human expressions.

And, according to the study, they like happy people better.

"There are hundreds of millions of these animals and they deserve to get the best possible care that we can give them," lead researcher Alan McElligott, a professor at the University of Roehampton, told ABC News.

The research team collected 35 goats for the study. However, 15 of the goats couldn’t be trained so they wound up with only 20 goats.

The goats were trained to go from one side of their enclosures to the other. Researchers showed the goats photographs and then took note of their reactions, measuring their faces, how they interacted with the faces and how long they looked at the photos.

The study found 52 percent of the subjects drifted toward the photograph with a happy face, while 30 percent went to the angry face and some didn’t choose either photo, according to the ABC News.

“Not only can they distinguish them, but they also generally prefer happy faces, regardless of the gender of the human faces or the sex of the goats,” the study’s conclusion read. “These findings suggest that the ability of animals to perceive human facial cues is not limited to those with a long history of domestication as companions, and therefore may be far more widespread than previously believed.”

McElligott told ABC News the research will help people understand more about animals.

"If they have animals like that, that they will realize that they are not stupid," he said. "These animals are interesting. They are quite clever and hopefully (they) give them better conditions in which to live."

One of the researchers, Carine Savalli Redigolo of the Federal University of São Paulo, told Mashable these findings draw a connection between goats and dogs.

"Dogs are very skillful at perceiving human communicative cues, and they can also integrate visual and acoustic emotional information," she said. "Horses also seem to perceive and differentiate emotional valences from human faces."

She added, "For dogs, for example, the left hemisphere of the brain processes more positive emotions which can induce to a right gaze bias. This could have happened also with these goats."