Goats Are Just As Smart As Dogs, Study Says

Will the goat be man’s next best friend?

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Researcher Alan McElligott hangs with Willow at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats. Via Alan McElligott/Twitter
Cari Jorgensen

Dogs are widely known as man’s best friend. They can read their human’s emotions. Their hearts are in sync with their owner’s hearts. They even lose trust in humans when they’re lied to. They communicate with us in ways that only horses have been known to do. Until now.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London conducted a study to find out if domestication shaped goats’ minds the way it has dogs and horses. During the study, which was published July 5 in Biology Letters, goats were presented with a person facing them and a person facing away from them while they (the goats) were given a task to complete.

Those of us who have dogs know that if our dogs are trying to do something and are having trouble with it, they’ll look to us for help. Would goats do the same thing? According to the study, yes.

“Goats gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach,” Dr. Christian Nawroth, one of the study’s authors, told The Telegraph. “Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans in a species that was domesticated primarily for agricultural production, and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals, such as dogs and horses.”

Dr. Alan McElligott, another author of the study, added, “From our earlier research, we already know that goats are smarter than their reputation suggests, but these results show how they can communicate and interact with their human handlers even though they were not domesticated as pets or working animals. We know that in some areas goats are as intelligent as dogs, but there has been a lot more work done on dog behavior and we are really just scratching the surface with goats.”

The study, which hopes will lead to better guidelines for the care of goats, was conducted at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in the United Kingdom.

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