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News Worms


Baa-rack! Sheep recognise Obama from photo

Baa-rack! Sheep recognise Obama from photo

Sheep can be trained to recognize faces of celebrities, a Cambridge University study found. After training, the sheep were shown two photographs - the celebrity's face and another face. Sheep can recognise human faces, spot the facial features of their handlers, and can even distinguish newsreader Fiona Bruce from actress Emma Watson.

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.

The new study which was published in Royal Society Open Science, concludes that sheep are smart enough to identify humans and nonhuman primates by face.

For the initial training, the sheep received a food reward for choosing the face versus a blank screen. In this test, sheep correctly chose the learned face eight times out of 10. Researchers from Cambridge's Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience trained eight sheep to recognise the faces of four celebrities from photographic portraits displayed on computer screens.

According to the study, this ability has been shown before only in humans.

"Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".

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. The sheep were still able to choose the correct person, showing that they weren't simply memorizing what a 2D photo looks like, but instead were understanding the 3D idea of a human head.

The team got success after few days of tutelage of sheep at the Cambridge University in England, where at least 8 sheep could recognize Obama by his picture.

Given this ability, the study authors concluded, sheep "recognize the face of a person familiar to them from a two-dimensional image". They were, of course, familiar with them, so when a photo of the coach replaced the photo of the celebrity, they have successfully chosen seven times out of ten.

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