Sheep Can Recognize Celebrity Faces in Photos

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Sheep can be trained to recognize faces of celebrities, a Cambridge University study found.

To challenge the sheep even further, scientists showed them the same celebrities in photos captured from a different, tilted angle.

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.

A new study shows that sheep have the ability to recognize human faces from photographs on computer screens.

The sheep eventually managed to identify the familiar face eight times out of every 10.

Picking the celebrity earned a sheep a food-pellet reward.

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"This ability has previously been shown only in humans", the scientists write.

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease.

"Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys". "Either the human face is similar enough to the sheep face that [it] activates the sheep face-processing system, or human-face recognition relies on more general-purpose recognition systems". "That means they can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain - such as Huntington's disease - that develop over a long time and affect [mental] abilities", Morton said. People recognise familiar faces easily, and can identify unfamiliar faces from repeatedly presented images.

The sheep made the correct choice of celebrity or handler roughly 70 percent of the time on average.

"Anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals who are able to recognise their handlers", said Prof Jenny Morton, who led the study. That's what scientists discovered through testing sheep by showing them celebrity portraits.

Likewise, when the authors of the new study swapped celebrity photographs with those of the sheep's handlers, the farm animals needed no training.

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