Step aside faithful canine companion. There’s a new kid on the block. One very much in contention for man’s new best friend and in no means related to the hound family.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London aim to prove that goats. That’s right, goats, are way more intelligent than anyone previously thought. In fact they are able to interact with people in a way so similar to domestic pets, they could become the new four-legged household staple.
Their recent experiment; working with goats from Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent, the scientists were able to find that goats alter their responses depending on the behaviour of humans. They also showed that goats will gaze imploringly at their owners when they are struggling to complete a task.
As any dog owner will know, this is classic canine behaviour. It’s also typical of traits found in horses – another species known for forging close relationships with their human counterparts – but not in wolves. Unsurprisingly, cats also don’t fetch the same results. A point that many feline owners will no doubt understand and already be the victims of oh so common looks, also known as ‘leave me alone human, I don’t care for interaction today.’
“Goats were the first livestock species to be domesticated, about 10,000 years ago,” says the lead author Dr. Alan McElligott. “These results show how they can communicate and interact with their human handlers even though they were not domesticated as pets or working animals.”
Another author of the study, Dr. Christian Nawroth, noted that, fascinatingly, “Goats gaze at humans in the same way dogs do when asking for treat that is out of reach.” Conclusions of this research also imply a huge amount in relation to the impact that domesticating animals has upon human-animal communication and connection. The phrase, ‘stupid as a goat’ have never rung so untrue. Even though standing on cows seems to be a common past-time.
In the latest experiment, the scientists trained the goats to remove a lid from a box in order to gain a reward. In the final test they made the box impossible to open and recorded the goat’s reaction. (as you would imagine, not a happy kid).
Of course, more research needs to be carried out in order for a clearer picture to be painted but the stated aim of this research is to hopefully improve the animal’s overall welfare. “If we can show that they are more intelligent, then hopefully we can bring in better guidelines for their care,” stated Dr McElligott. A fine outcome, by any means.
One thing to note though, if you are planning on a new domestic addition, there is one difference when it comes to the kid. In a way that differs from the faithful hound, goats are herd animals and will become depressed if kept without any goat companions. So, rather than just welcoming one Billy, you could take in two. Just imagine what the neighbours would say.