Knowing me, knowing ewe
THERE now exist eight Welsh mountain ewes that associate the faces of Emma Watson, Barack Obama (right), Fiona Bruce and Jake Gyllenhaal with food treats.
Cambridge University scientists have been experimenting with these ewes, which were rescued from the slaughterhouse, and have discovered that sheep recognise human faces. They quickly learnt to discriminate faces from blank screens or other objects 90% of the time and were able to tell their four new celebrity friends apart from other faces eight times out of 10, even with different hairstyles.
The results, which are published in Royal Society Open Science, could be of assistance in developing new drugs for dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions, as sheep’s brains are far more similar to humans’ than those of mice or rats. However, we are advised that this new insight should not much alter the general perception of sheep. ‘We’ve shown that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans… [but] sheep do some really stupid things,’ says Prof Jennifer Morton. ‘They’re not going to build a rocket and go to the Moon.’