17 Feb 2017

He's goat your back

8:49 am on 17 February 2017

A new study has found that goats can link visual and audio cues to identify if another goat is a friend or not.

Researchers tested whether goats recognised other goats familiar to them by setting up a three-pen configuration.

Researchers have uncovered more answers to the complex world of animal communication. Photo: Supplied

The research was done at the Queen Mary University of London and led by Ben Pitcher, who said the study shows that goats have a higher-level of cognitive ability than anyone had previously thought.

The work feeds into a bigger programme that is using goats in a sanctuary to examine how the welfare of livestock animals affects their personality.

Mr Pitcher said the recent study showed that not only are goats social animals, but they were also more intelligent than people thought.

"They can use information that they know about their friends to infer information about other goats in the herd that they may not know, using their friends to make decisions about other animals.

"It shows just how smart goats are, those of us that have been around goats know that they are not silly animals, they're really really intelligent."

Ben Pitcher

Lead researcher Ben Pitcher Photo: Supplied

It also gave researchers a hint at how smart other animals are, said Mr Pitcher.

"It may indicate that other social animals are able to develop these mental images as well."

To test whether goats could identify the call of an individual goat, researchers placed three pens in a triangle and put a goat in each and a speaker between two of the pens.

"The third goat was looking at the other two and we played the sound of one of the other two from the speaker and if the goat recognised and was able to recognise and link the call with how one of the other goats looked then it looked toward the correct goat.

"If it couldn't recognise the call then it would look at random around the other goats."

By examining how different animals use sound and visual recognition, people coulddevelop an understanding of how animals integrate information from multiple sensory sources, such as sight and hearing, said Mr Pitcher.

He said this was helping researchers understand more about the complex world of animal communication.

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