Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

09 November, 2017, 01:26 | Author: Patty Aguilar
  • A sheep. Smarter than it looks

Sheep learnt to recognise Barack Obama after being shown his photo a few dozen times, said a study on November 8 which suggested our four-legged friends may be smarter than we think.

Morton and her colleagues released eight sheep one-by-one into a pen outfitted with two computer screens.

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.

Among the faces they were trained to recognize were former President Barack Obama and actress Emma Watson.

Sheep are social animals and can recognise other sheep as well as familiar humans.

Picking the celebrity earned a sheep a food-pellet reward. The photo recognition experiment gives scientists a way to track changes in the cognitive abilities of sheep with a gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease.


Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not.

In fact, they could even recognise people when pictures were altered or were taken from a different angle, an ability only previously recorded in humans and primates.

Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs.

When the handler's face was shown, sheep picked it seven out of 10 times.

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". This convinced the researchers that sheep had face-recognition abilities similar to ours.

The research's lead author Prof Jenny Morton said, "What we did is ask whether a sheep could learn to recognise someone from a photograph". First, the team familiarized the sheep with the celebrities' faces by showing the faces opposite a black screen or random objects.

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