Baa-rack! Sheep recognise Obama from photo

A sheep. Smarter than it looks

A sheep. Smarter than it looks

Researchers at the University of Cambridge trained eight sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities from photos shown on a computer screen.

The former U.S. president was one of four celebrities used in a test of the woolly creatures' face-recognition skills, along with Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, British TV host Fiona Bruce and American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the research team said.

"These data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates", claims the study, published today in Royal Society Open Science.

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EWE AGAIN Sheep were trained to recognize celebrity faces, demonstrating that the animals can recognize a familiar human face from a 2-D image.

For the initial training, the sheep received a food reward for choosing the face versus a blank screen. Later, they were able to recognize the images for which they had been rewarded.

In addition to being shown images of the celebrities facing forward, scientists also tested the animals' ability to recognise the faces in photographs taken from other angles.

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The study involved eight female Welsh Mountain sheep. Since the handler cares for the sheep daily, the animals were familiar with her - although they had never seen a 2-D photo of her face.

The research's lead author Prof Jenny Morton said, "What we did is ask whether a sheep could learn to recognise someone from a photograph". "Although I didn't think sheep could recognize emotion, it made me think about face recognition as a complex brain process".

"This face recognition task will allow us to test whether or not sheep carrying the Huntington's disease gene mutation are impaired in their ability to think and reason", Morton explained.

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The team got success after few days of tutelage of sheep at the Cambridge University in England, where at least 8 sheep could recognize Obama by his picture. The sheep were still able to choose the correct person, showing that they weren't simply memorizing what a 2D photo looks like, but instead were understanding the 3D idea of a human head.

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