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09 November 2017, 01:27 | Ruben Fields
GETTYCambridge University researchers were astonished to find that sheep have face-recognition abilities
Next, the sheep were taken into the barn and shown two photos.
The former United States 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.
The BBC quoted researchers as stating that "sheep possess similar face recognition abilities to primates".
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. In these initial tests, the sheep were shown the faces from the front, but to test how well they recognised the faces, the researchers next showed them the faces at an angle.
Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not.
The sheep would nuzzle up close to their chosen screen, where they would trigger an infrared sensor releasing a treat, if they had chosen correctly. The sheep could even recognize images of faces shown at an angle, though their ability to do so declined by about 15 percent - the same rate at which a human's ability to perform the same task declines. The sheep chose the right face eight out of 10 times.
Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease. Eight times out 10 the sheep picked the celebrity.
The new evidence suggests that sheep can process information about a human face without requiring a 3-D "real person", said Morton.
"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change", Morton said.
The researchers say this study of the ability of sheep to recognize faces may be useful in research into Huntington's disease and other human brain disorders that affect mental processing.
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