Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

A sheep recognises Emma Watson's face- no trouble at all

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.

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

The BBC quoted researchers as stating that "sheep possess similar face recognition abilities to primates".

Recognizing faces is one of the most important social skills for human beings, and some disorders of the brain, including Huntington's disease, affect this ability.

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Morton and a team trained eight sheep to recognise the famous faces from a frontal photo of each of them. But there are at least eight sheep who can recognize the former president by his face. Horses, according to a study published in 2016, can also identify emotion in human facial expressions.

"We chose the celebrities nearly randomly", Morton said, as long as there were lots photos to choose from. 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. The sheep were having two options in each step as a photo of celebrity face or another is of something else.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. "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".

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

Likewise, when the authors of the new study swapped celebrity photographs with those of the sheep's handlers, the farm animals needed no training. "But the evidence is compelling", Morton said.

Morton said that future neurological research, using sheep as model organisms, could build from this study. "Finally, after 10 years of development, we now have a really useful battery of tests we can use to measure cognitive function in sheep".

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