You should be happy when you meet a hoofed friend. Especially if that friend is a goat.
Because, it turns out, goats can read human moods and are more drawn to people who look happy.
According to a new study recently published in the journal Open Science, goats prefer “positive human emotional facial expressions.” That’s smiling faces, to you and me.
Researchers set goats free to explore a closed-off test area with two black and white photos of a human face – one smiling and one angry – posted at goat eye level.
The researchers found that that the goats preferred to approach the photo of the smiling face.
The results suggest that goats — who have traditionally been domesticated for the purpose of food production and not companionship — have the ability to read human facial expressions.
Mashable reached out to one of the researchers behind the study, Carine Savalli Redigolo of the Federal University of São Paulo, who has PhDs in Statistics and Ethology.
According to Savalli Redigolo, the findings “should raise discussions about how we manage and treat these animals.”
“These findings challenge the idea that such complex ability is limited to companion or working animals,” says Savalli Redigolo.
Savalli Redigolo explains that while companion animals are still more skilled at reading humans, the study proves that goats are able to tell if humans look happy or not — and that “they prefer happy faces.”
“Dogs are very skilful at perceiving human communicative cues, and they can also integrate visual and acoustic emotional information,” says Savalli Redigolo “Horses also seem to perceive and differentiate emotional valences from human faces.”
The results were most significant when the photo of the smiling person was placed on the right side of the test space. But according to Savalli Redigolo, the researchers believe this to is due to the asymmetry of the goat brain.
“For dogs, for example, the left-hemisphere of the brain process more positive emotions which can induce to a right gaze bias. This could have happened also with these goats,” she said.
Get out there and smile at a goat if you get the chance!