Goats may be able to bond with humans in the same way pets can, according to research published in the Nature journal Biology Letters. While goats may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to a household pet, the new findings from scientists at Queen Mary University suggest they are capable of building emotional relationships with humans like any cat or dog.
The team found this during a 2016 study where they trained 34 goats to remove the lid from a box, in exchange for a reward. They ran the goats through the test many times. However, on the last time they made it impossible to get into the box and recorded how the goat reacted.
Once they realized they were stuck, the animals turned their heads towards the person conducting the study. In addition, they gazed much longer when the person faced them as opposed to when the scientists turned away.
That shows they changed their behavior based on the human response, a trait that was previously only thought to belong to cats, horses, and dogs. The study finds that not only goats are smarter than we initially thought, they can also communicate with humans, even though they weren’t domesticated as pets.
The behavior noted in the study is similar to how cats and dogs look to their owners when a treat is out of reach. In that way, the study shows that living among humans for tens of thousands of years may have altered the species.
However, as in most studies of this kind, further research is needed before any such conclusions can be made. The team plans to follow up on their observations in the future in order to take a deeper look into the reaction between humans and goats and see how we may have affected domesticated animals over time.