Goofy, funny, affectionate – a goat is the best friend you haven’t met yet
Never underestimate a goat.
Goats live in complex social groups.
They are experts at finding food anywhere. Goats in Morocco, for example, are known for climbing trees in search of tasty sprouts.
Goats eating garbage is a misconception. They are surprisingly picky eaters, able to pick a single leaf off of a thorn bush.
To investigate just how well goats can communicate, a study in the journal Biology Letters trained goats to remove a lid from a box in return for a reward. In the final test, they put the reward out of reach and recorded their goats’ reactions.
As in this video, goats switched their gaze back and forth frequently between the withheld treat and the humans.
Probably saying “Eh, a bit of help here?”
They looked earlier, more often and for longer at people facing them that people facing away.
When your dog looks at you and you melt
First author Dr. Christian Nawroth, said: “Goats gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach”
Goats do the same imploring “help me” stare as dogs.
Science has proved that looking into a dog’s eyes releases the “hug drug” oxytocin.
Which explains the warm, fuzzy feeling we get from eye contact with our furry best friend.
In an experiment to see whether animals actually felt love, Paul Zak took blood samples from a domestic mixed-breed terrier and a goat that regularly played with each other.
He took a second blood sample after letting them play together for 15 minutes.
The dog had a 48 percent increase in oxytocin, showing that the dog was quite attached to the goat.
The goat though is actually IN LOVE with the terrier : It had a 210 percent increase in oxytocin.
The only time Zak have seen such a surge in oxytocin in humans is when someone sees their loved one, is romantically attracted to someone, or is shown an enormous kindness.
Some goats are more optimistic that others
Alan McElligott and Elodie Briefer of Queen Mary’s University worked with goats to understand positive emotions in animals in a sanctuary in Kent.
They trained the goats to distinguish between a location where there was a reward and one where there was none: the goats turned left along a corridor to obtain apples and carrots but if they turned right there was never any food.
When the goats were exposed to corridors leading ahead rather than left or right – the scientists discovered a surprising result.
Female goats who had suffered physical abuse before they arrived at the sanctuary were quicker to explore these uncertain options, with no guaranteed reward, than well cared for goats.
The abuse survivors were more “optimistic” and the scientists suggested this was because they were more resilient to stress.
Some scientists have suggested this optimistic demeanour demonstrates goats’ capacity for “happiness”.
To check if your goat is happy? They are more likely to point their ears forward and keep their tail up when they were in a positive state.
Goats solve a puzzle designed for chimps
Goats solved a puzzle developed for primates in 2014.
The “artificial fruit challenge” involves solving a puzzle which allows access to fruit in a box. In a paper published in Frontiers in Zoology, goats had to use their teeth to pull on a rope to activate a lever, and then lift the lever up with their muzzle.
If they correctly performed the task, they received a food reward that dropped out of the box.
Of 12 goats, nine were able to master the task after about four tries. Two were disqualified for cheating (!) and one was abandoned as a hopeless case after 22 tries.
After 10 months, all the successful goats remembered how to solve the problem and earned the tasty treat in less than a minute.
This is why goats won’t be outwitting chimps
Some goats were allowed to spy on their successful buddies.
But they turned out to be no better at solving the puzzle than goats who never got a hint.
This could mean that goats prefer to learn on their own, the researchers write, or it could just be that goats have either lost or never possessed that particular social adaptation—being able to learn by watching others—that animals such as dolphins excel at.
For this reason, they probably won’t be outwitting dolphins, elephants, chimps or other animal competitors anytime soon.
All this proof that goats aren’t as stupid as they look will hopefully improve their well-being around the world, if not make them man’s new best friend.
Man and his goat – sounds good, doesn’t it?
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.