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Goats Could be Humans’ Next Best Friend After Dogs

The way someone looks at you could be a telltale sign of their feelings towards you and the same seems to be correct to a certain extent with animals. According to a new study that investigated gaze of goats, this animal could be humans’ next best friend after dogs.

Published in the journal Biology Letters, the study was carried out by scientists at Queen Mary University of London. Scientist first observed that goats respond to people by gazing at them when facing a problem they cannot solve alone, and their responses change depending on the person’s behaviour.

To understand this, scientists trained goats to remove a lid from a box to receive a reward. In the final test, they made the reward inaccessible and recorded their reaction towards the experimenters, who were either facing the goats or had their backs to them. Goats redirected their gaze frequently between the inaccessible reward and human experimenters. They also gazed towards a forward facing person earlier, more often and for longer compared to when the person was facing away.

First author Dr Christian Nawroth, said that they have observed that goats gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do. One example that Nawroth gave was the gaze of the goat when asking for a treat. “Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans in a species that was domesticated primarily for agricultural production, and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals, such as dogs and horses”, Nawroth said.

The research indicates that the domestication of animals has a much broader impact on human-animal communication than previously believed. For example, it’s thought that the capacity of dogs to perceive information from humans is the result of changes to the brain from becoming a companion animal through domestication.

David Lintott is a freelance journalist, covering culture, sport and society. He hails from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, which he considers the source of his world-weariness.

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