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. Celebrity profile photos were randomly paired with images of one of 62 objects, all head-sized but lacking faces.
EWE AGAIN Sheep were trained to recognize celebrity faces, demonstrating that the animals can recognize a familiar human face from a 2-D image.
"We chose the celebrities nearly randomly", Morton said, as long as there were lots photos to choose from.
In experiments in which the animals were rewarded with food for picking out portraits of Bruce, Watson and Barack Obama, sheep proved they were experts at identifying individuals.
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.
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Recognizing human faces is a skill you may take for granted-but you're also a human. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times. When a portrait of the handler was interspersed randomly, the sheep chose them seven out of 10 times.
People with Huntington's disease struggle to recognize facial emotion, Morton said. 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. "Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".
Peirce said it was hard to say whether sheep associate photos of faces with people. "That says to me that identity is important".
In a separate test, researchers wanted to see if the sheep would recognize human trainers they already know without any training like they underwent in the pen with the celebrity faces. And you thought you were so special, human. The research could even help with research into neurological diseases. Over time, they learn to associate a reward with the celebrity's photograph. "There is a transgenic sheep model of Huntington's disease, created in Australia by collaborators", she said.