Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face, New Study Shows

Phillip Butler
November 9, 2017

No, this isn't the beginning of a baaa-d joke. After training, the sheep were shown two photographs - the celebrity's face and another face.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", lead study author Jenny Morton said. The investigators also found that the sheep could identify a picture of their handler without any training. But it's been unclear whether the skill was real recognition or simple memorization. One was a celebrity it had seen before, and one was a photo of a non-celebrity who looked similar and had the same gender and ethnicity. A celebrity's face would appear on one screen, while a different image appeared on the other.

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

Initially, the sheep were trained to approach certain images by being given food rewards.

To see if the sheep were just memorizing shapes, researchers did the same test, but with pictures in which the celebs' heads were tilted right or left. Eight times out 10 the sheep picked the celebrity. She did a double take of both faces before ultimately choosing her handler.

Morton and a team trained eight sheep to recognise the famous faces from a frontal photo of each of them. The scientists have been rewarded better for measuring the brain functions of sheep. The results were published Wednesday in the Royal Society's Open Science journal as part of research looking into cognitive ability and neurodegenerative disorders, like Huntington's disease, which can impair people's ability to recognize facial emotion.

The new evidence suggests that sheep can process information about a human face without requiring a 3-D "real person", said Morton.

Sheep seemed to recognize the faces of Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and even Jake Gyllenhaal in a new study.

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