A recent study supports growing evidence that goats are intelligent, empathetic animals by finding that goats can recognize the differences in tone of voice.
The researchers worked with 27 rescued goats living at England’s Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats.
For the study, the researchers placed a speaker inside a small enclosure then played two recordings that said “Hey! Look over here!” One recording played the words using in a happy voice, while the other used an angry tone.
Each of the 27 goats entered the enclosure one at a time. First, one version of the recording was played nine times in a row. Most of the goats looked at the speaker the first few times the message played, then stopped looking at the speaker as the phrase repeated.
Next, the second version of the recorded phase was played three times.
When the recording changed, 71% of the goats lifted their heads and perked up their ears.
Several of the goats “started to investigate the source of the sound longer than in the initial stages of the experiment, suggesting they noticed the emotions had changed,” Dr. Marianne Mason said in an NPR interview.
Alan McElligott, another of the researchers behind the study, has conducted several other studies on goat intelligence — including one that found goats are good at complex tasks and have “excellent long-term memory.” His other studies found that goats physiologically responded differently to happy versus frustrated goat bleats, and that goats preferred the image of a happy human face over an angry human face, among other things.
This information is nothing new to many goat lovers who already understand that goats respond better to kinder, gentler dispositions.
“By showing this ability in goats, we’re trying to move the needle in terms of opening people’s eyes to the cognitive abilities of livestock,” Alan McElligott told NPR. “Our overall goal is to get people to think about animals in different way, to treat them a little bit better.”
Goats and other farmed animals are just as capable of feeling complex emotions and building relationships as companion animals or humans.
Lady Freethinker congratulates Dr. Marianne Mason and Alan McElligott for their work in helping better understand the minds of goats and encouraging the humane treatment of animals.
For another uplifting goat-related story, read how a rescued father and daughter goat are living happily ever after at a farmed animal sanctuary.