The Cambridge University study published Wednesday also shows that sheep can recognize the faces of their human handlers without any prior training.
Many other animals are known to recognise the faces among their own species, while some - including macaques, horses, dogs, mockingbirds, and sheep - can identify individuals from other species too.
The researchers say this study of the ability of sheep to recognize faces may be useful in research into Huntington's disease and other human brain disorders that affect mental processing.
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The Cambridge congregation included eight Welsh Mountain female sheep that learned successfully four different faces of celebrities, during the experiment.
In fact, they could even recognise people when pictures were altered or were taken from a different angle, an ability only previously recorded in humans and primates. "Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change", Morton said. These faces were put up on screens and the sheep were rewarded with food for picking the photograph of the correct celebrity displayed in a pen.
They then challenged the animals again, this time by showing them a picture of the same celebrity, but using a new photo of their face tilted at an angle.
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"Sheep are capable of sophisticated decision making", said study author Jenny Morton, a neurobiologist at the University of Cambridge.
Humans and monkeys can now extend a warm welcome to sheep for joining us in being able to recognize human faces from photographs.
When the handler's face was shown, sheep picked it seven out of 10 times. "Although I didn't think sheep could recognize emotion, it made me think about face recognition as a complex brain process". And you thought you were so special, human. In his previous studies, sheep were better at discriminating faces when they were trained on familiar individuals, like a handler or a sheep from their own flock, he said. The research could even help with research into neurological diseases. Maybe they just didn't like that the non-familiar lacked a reward, for example.
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