Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

A new study shows that sheep have the ability to recognize human faces from photographs on computer screens.

The study's authors first trained the sheep to recognize images of four celebrities: Barack Obama, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emma Watson and Fiona Bruce, chosen because there were lots of available images from lots of angles.

Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not. During one set of trials, they were made to discern between their handler (whose photo they'd never seen before) and a new face. These faces were put up on screens and the sheep were rewarded with food for picking the photograph of the correct celebrity displayed in a pen. Eight times out 10 the sheep picked the celebrity. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times.

The sheep's accuracy dipped to about 66 percent - "a magnitude similar to that seen when humans perform this task", the team reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

"We focused on whether or not an animal was capable of processing a two-dimensional object as a person", Morton added. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species.

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"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change, particularly in sheep who carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease", she pointed out. However, the ability of sheep to identify faces was unclear.

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.

Sheep are known for their sociability, but this showed - with some training - the sheep could not only recognize fellow sheep and humans they knew, but process images of faces.

The woolly creatures could reliably pick out their human handlers without any previous photographic training at all, showing they can spot a familiar face.

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