Dogs might have some defending to do as ‘man’s best friend’, as new research suggests goats could actually be as loving and clever as dogs. According to the Telegraph, goats can form emotional bonds with their owners.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London are looking to prove that goats are much cleverer than previously thought. This is thought to be due to 10,000 years of domestication. Their latest experiment showed that goats will look to their owners if they struggle to complete a task; a trait common in dogs, but not wolves as they never learned to coexist with humans.
The team also employed a task used to test intelligence in apes which involves opening a sealed box using levers. It was found that goats can remember the skill four years later, even without being prompted.
Dr Christian Nawroth, one of the study’s authors, said “Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans in a species that was domesticated primarily for agricultural production, and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals, such as dogs and horses.”
Goats were the first livestock species to be domesticated, some 10,000 years ago. There are a billion of them globally, and up until recently they were considered as smart as an average sheep.
Scientists thought that dogs and cats connected with humans due to changes in their brain over thousands of years. Given the 10,000 years of domestication, it would make sense for goats to interact with humans in similar ways.
Co-author Dr Alan McElligott from Queen Mary’s Department of Biological and Experimental Psychology said that: “You can’t work with a sheep on its own. People think they are the same, but they are very different animals. Anyone who has ever worked with both animals can tell you that.
“From our earlier research, we already know that goats are smarter than their reputation suggests, but these results show how they can communicate and interact with their human handlers even though they were not domesticated as pets or working animals.
“We know that in some areas goats are as intelligent as dogs, but there has been a lot more work done on dog behaviour and we are really just scratching the surface with goats.”
McElligot ultimately wants the research to bring better guidelines for their care.