Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

GETTYCambridge University researchers were astonished to find that sheep have face-recognition abilities

Sheep can be trained to recognize faces of celebrities, a Cambridge University study found. Then, the researchers showed the sheep two different face photos and gave it a food reward for choosing the correct face it had learned before. Out of the all the shown photos, the sheep chose celebrities Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and United Kingdom television journalist Fiona Bruce.

Scientists say the study could help advance research of Huntington's disease, which causes humans to lose their ability to recognize faces, Sky News reported.

For the initial training, the sheep received a food reward for choosing the face versus a blank screen.

The sheep picked the celebrity's face eight times out of 10.

Sheep can be trained to recognize celebrities like Barack Obama and Jake Gyllenhaal, new research shows.

"This face recognition task will allow us to test whether or not sheep carrying the Huntington's disease gene mutation are impaired in their ability to think and reason", Morton explained.

A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients.

"My 2001 paper looked very carefully at this with a wider range of stimuli, more sheep and more conditions", he said.

The team got success after few days of tutelage of sheep at the Cambridge University in England, where at least 8 sheep could recognize Obama by his picture.

As with some other animals such as dogs and monkeys, sheep are social animals and can recognise other sheep as well as familiar humans. By the end of this experiment, the sheep chose a familiar celebrity's face over a stranger's face about 79 percent of the time on average.

Lead scientist Professor Jenny Morton says sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities comparable to those of humans and monkeys. "I guess they have extended our work to show that sheep generalize viewpoints of the faces, which does require a rich representation of the identity".

Likewise, when the authors of the new study swapped celebrity photographs with those of the sheep's handlers, the farm animals needed no training.

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