Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face, New Study Shows

Sheep graze in western Germany on Nov. 6

Sheep graze in western Germany on Nov. 6

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.

Next, the sheep were taken into the barn and shown two photos.

"We chose these people because there were lots of images of each person available on line, both front-on and taken at different angles", study co-author Jennifer Morton of the University of Cambridge told AFP. A celebrity's face would appear on one screen, while a different image appeared on the other.

Picking the celebrity earned a sheep a food-pellet reward.

Obviously the study focused on only eight domestic sheep, and it does mention some potential alternative interpretations of the data.

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The sheep made the correct choice of celebrity or handler roughly 70 percent of the time on average. However, the ability of sheep to identify faces was unclear.

To see if the sheep were just memorizing shapes, researchers did the same test, but with pictures in which the celebs' heads were tilted right or left.

The sheep picked the celebrity's face eight times out of 10. The photo recognition experiment gives scientists a way to track changes in the cognitive abilities of sheep with a gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease. Recognizing a person that is familiar from 3-D life requires "complex image processing", the authors say, because the sheep must translate their memory of the person to a 2-D picture. The scientists have been rewarded better for measuring the brain functions of sheep.

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 animals' success rate fell by around 15 per cent when presented with the faces at a new angle, an amount researchers said was comparable to that seen when humans perform the task.

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