Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

A sheep. Smarter than it looks

After training the sheep again showed two images - a person studied celebrities and the unknown person - and eight times out of ten they came to the celebrities with all the enthusiasm.

The former U.S. president was one of four celebrities used in a test of the woolly creatures' face-recognition skills, along with Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, British TV host Fiona Bruce and American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the research team said.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", she noted in a university news release.

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The researchers found that sheep can recognize both familiar and unfamiliar human faces. The sheep didn't do as well but still passed, recognizing the celebrities about 68 percent of the time - a drop in performance comparable to that seen in humans performing the same task.

The sheep even recognized Emma Watson at a different angle. Horses, according to a study published in 2016, can also identify emotion in human facial expressions.

"Sheep are capable of sophisticated decision making", said study author Jenny Morton, a neurobiologist at the University of Cambridge.

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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. Training involved the sheep making decisions as they moved around a specially-designed pen.

Sheep, on average, chose the celebrity faces correctly in 8 out of 10 trials.

Jake Gyllenhaal, seen here with an animal that is not a sheep.

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The sheep were less successful at identifying the tilted celebrities but still performed better than chance. 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. In these initial tests, the sheep were shown the faces from the front, but to test how well they recognised the faces, the researchers next showed them the faces at an angle.

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