"The abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets".
The research, conducted at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Kent by a team from the Queen Mary, University of London, demonstrated that the goats preferred to interact with the smiling face.
"Goats looked and interacted on average 1.4 seconds with the happy faces and 0.9 seconds with the angry faces", study co-author Christian Nawroth of the Queen Mary University of London told AFP.
Other studies have shown that dogs and horses also appear to recognise and remember human facial expressions displaying emotion.
They reacted more excitedly to the former, approaching them and exploring them with their snouts. Those were placed about four feet apart (see image below) and occasionally swapped so that the smiling and frowning photos were on the left or right sides at one point or another.
Goats have been found to prefer people who are grinning rather than scowling when shown pictures of both.
The researchers believe their work has implications for understanding how animals process human emotions and facial cues.
A paper published August 29, in Royal Society Open Science indicates that domesticated goats are pretty tuned in to our facial expressions.
She also thinks that in general, goats and other livestock "are treated very well [by the farmers who raise them] - they wouldn't be productive" otherwise in terms of offspring and milk. The animals were led into an enclosure and, in order to train them to move from one side of the pen to the other, an experimenter would stand opposite the goats holding dry pasta, a favorite goat snack. "But I don't know how the goats would be able to relate the pictures of faces to real people or real behavior".
"In addition, facial expressions are also prevalent in non-human animals and the question of whether and how animals perceive emotional facial expressions is of major interest to understand their underlying ultimate functions and origin".
"Not only can they distinguish them, but they also generally prefer happy faces, regardless of the gender of the human faces or the sex of the goats", read the study published on Royal Society Open Science.
"However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions".