smart sheep

Sheep can remember faces and have long memories.

Sheep aren’t as stupid as previously thought, according to researchers.  Never considered particularly intelligent, sheep are actually so smart they make ‘executive decisions’ and have long memories, remembering friends for two years.


They can remember faces, be they other sheep or human, and can recall faces when looking at photographs, University of Cambridge scientists said.

Sheep can also pass psychological tests that monkeys would fail, according to their study.

Dr Laura Avanzo and Dr Jennifer Morton were studying neurodegeneration with a focus on Huntingdon’s disease, an inherited disorder that leads to nerve damage and dementia, when they stumbled on their findings quite by accident.

As part of their research they studied a new breed of genetically-modified sheep that carry a detective gene that causes Huntingdon’s in people. They also needed to study normal sheep in order to compare and contrast their findings with the GM sheep

So they subjected seven female domestic sheep – or Ovis aries – to a series of tests normally carried out on humans with Huntingdon’s.

What they found amazed them.

The scientists placed pairs of different coloured buckets in front of them; with one containing food each time.

They them switched the food from bucket to bucket, while also alternating the colours and, eventually, changing the shapes of the buckets.

The sheep learnt to recognise different patterns in colours and changed their behaviour according to the pattern they were looking at. They also altered their behaviour based on the various shapes placed in front of them.

Only humans and other primates find these kind of responses easy; most other large animals struggle with them, the scientists said.

Successfully completing the tasks relies on the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain larger in humans than other animals, New Scientist reported.

Animal behavioural specialists have for decades focused their attention on monkeys during testing.

Dr Avanzo and Dr Morton believe this is because sheep, like many humans, behave differently when in a flock compared to when alone.

Dr Morton said: ‘Sheep live in a flock, and in a flock they’re rather silly. When you work with them as individuals, they behave very differently.’

Via Daily Mail