Aside from being a good food source, goats have the capacity to become man’s best friend, according to a research team from the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The researchers found that a goat is capable of communicating with people just like dogs, horses and other domesticated animals.
The study published in the journal Biology Letters states that the goats responded to people by looking at them when they have a problem that they cannot solve alone. QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences adds that the animals’ responses changed based on the person’s behavior.
The researchers trained each goat to remove the cover of a box to receive a reward. The team then made the reward inaccessible during the final test and recorded how each goat reacted toward the researchers.
The team found that the goats gazed frequently between the reward and the experimenters. Moreover, the goats looked towards the experimenter who was facing them more frequently compared to when the experimenters had their backs to them and were facing away.
“Goats gaze at humans in the same way dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach, for example,” says the study’s first author Christian Nawroth. “ 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.”
The findings imply that domestication of animals has influenced the communication between people and animals more than previously assumed. Interestingly, goats were actually the first livestock species to be domesticated, dating 10,000 years ago, explains Alan McElligott from the School’s Department of Biological and Experimental Psychology.
Although previous experiments demonstrated that goats are smarter than we believe, these findings prove that they are just as capable as other pets or working animals in communicating and interacting with their human handlers.
The team says that their study could bring more understanding about livestock species. They hope this will help improve how goats are treated as well as improve animal welfare.