Study on Bonded Goats
The surprising, adorable thing goats, puppies have in common
  • [Image: 0708_FEA_Goat-dog.jpg]
    "Goats gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach," study co-author Christian Nawroth said. (iStock)
By Rachel Feltman, The Washington Post
Published: July 8, 2016, 6:01 AM
Goats, creepy-eyed darlings of the Internet age, have become a trendy pet in recent years. But human influence on the noble goat goes back much further than the latest hipster craze. In fact, goats are thought to be the second-oldest domesticated animal. While our love affair with canines stretches so far back that scientists can’t be sure when it began, goats clock in second at 11,000 years of domestication.
According to new research published in Biology Letters, those 11,000 years of farming have left goats with a surprising trait: They look to humans for help.
“Goats gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach,” author Christian Nawroth said.
Until now, only horses and dogs have been shown to use directed gazes to communicate with humans. In experiment set-ups known as “unsolvable problem” tasks, animals are trained to retrieve treats from a box, then given a box they don’t know how to open while nearby humans either face them or turn away. In studies of domesticated dogs and horses, the animals have been shown to turn their gazes on the front-facing humans, as if using eye contact to implore them to assist.
Gaze behavior
It’s one thing to tame an animal; it’s another to domesticate one. You can see a great example of this in the pet fox industry: So-called tame foxes can be bought for a few hundred dollars. They’ve been raised by humans, so they might adapt to living in your home reasonably well — but they’re still wild. Domesticated foxes come from a facility in Siberia that’s been breeding them for over half a century, mating only those foxes that do well living as human pets. The resulting critters are doglike and trainable.
Domestication has fascinating side-effects that we don’t yet fully understand. In one study on dogs using the gaze behavior described above, researchers found that “tame” wolves — ones raised by humans — didn’t turn their eyes on human bystanders when they needed help. That suggests that this level of interspecies interaction is something developed over many generations.
Goats have certainly had time to develop such a behavior, but researchers were surprised to see them staring at human handlers in times of trouble.
“The key difference is that these goats have not been bred as companion animals or pets,” Queen Mary University of London’s Alan McElligott, author of the study, said. “The other animals studied, those were domesticated to work fairly closely with humans, as guard dogs or companion dogs or in the case of horses, to be ridden. So we thought goats would be a very useful model to compare them to, because they were domesticated for milk, meat, and hair instead.”
In other words, the gaze behavior held — even though goats weren’t bred to be our buddies, but our breakfast. The experimental goats looked back and forth between the inaccessible treats and the human observers like puppies. They also seemed more likely to look at the humans when they were facing forward, and looked at them earlier, more often, and for longer periods.
“These results are pretty surprising,” Laurie Santos, who studies animal cognition at Yale’s Canine and Primate Laboratory, told The Post in an email.
The results suggest that domestication, even for such nonsocial reasons as meat and milk, can create animals that understand human gaze cues.
“This is exciting, as it shows how little we still understand about how the process of domestication can shape rich social understanding,” Santos said.
McElligott said he thinks it would be fascinating to try to replicate the results in animals domesticated for similar purposes, such as cows or sheep. The goats used in the study are used to humans, having been cared for at the Buttercup Sanctuary for Goats. That’s a necessary component of the experiment, he explained. If scientists took a gang of pastured goats who rarely interacted with humans in a positive way and ran the same tests, they couldn’t be sure that animals who bucked the gaze trend weren’t afraid of people.
Welfare guidelines
Broader implications aside, the research team is excited to continue figuring out how goats got to be the way they are. When McElligott — who was raised on a farm in Ireland and kept a couple of pet goats — first entered the field, only one lab in the world was studying goat cognition.
“Our primary long-term goal is helping to improve welfare guidelines,” he said. “Currently there are about a billion goats on the planet being used for agriculture, but still most of the welfare guidelines for keeping them come from sheep. Anyone who’s worked with goats and sheep know they’re quite different.”
The bottom line, he said, is that the animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for — and they’re very well domesticated.
“It’s not as if goats will suddenly take over as the new urban pet, replacing cats and dogs,” McElligott said.
That's so cool! I always said that Finn especially looks at us like a dog--so eager to please and wants to be our friend. Sputnik fixes his eyes on me like he's studying me--trying to figure me out and wants to know what I'm thinking.
I never thought of packgoat people as part of the "hipster craze" but here you have it. My neighbors are wrong about me being a little odd. Who knew you could study animal cognition at Yale. And even a billion goats in the world can't convince the majority of people they are not sheep. Go figure. This is why I stuck this article in the land issue thread line.
Hello IdahoNancy and All
A very good piece of information.
After years of working with dogs,horses I have noticed the eye contact thing.
Now after just less than a year (September 2015) I have noted similar behavior in Pete and Sam.
I get the same "Look" from them, especially in my case here when out walkabout.
Get to a fork in the trail and if they are in front of me (Not often) I get that over the shoulder look
"What way do we go" with direct eye contact.
Maybe this is something we can take note as we work with our goats hiking and packing this summer?
Do our own "Study" that will not cost Millions of dollars and then in the fall post a follow up study about eye contact in Pack Goats? Smile
Did anybody notice in the article goats were only referred  to as Food and Fiber not any mention as a working animal?
Thanks for Posting the information Idahonancy.
Happy Trails
Well Done
hihobaron Blizzard,Fuzzy,Pete,Sam and the Troops in SC
After milking goats for a few years, it astounds me that anyone could say that milking is a "nonsocial" activity. In a modern milk parlor where machines do all the work I can understand this way of thinking, but an animal that is milked by hand is part of the family. My girls love to be milked, and the ones that don't like it at first must be trained gently and patiently so they come to trust me and enjoy the process. This takes time and bonding. Goats have been humans' primary source of milk throughout history all over the world, so it's no wonder that we have special social ties with them. Sheep are an unusual source of milk, and cows are a far more recent source, so I won't be shocked if these species turn out to be less bonded to humans than goats.
hihobaron, in doing the math I know why they don't mention goats as working animals. There "are about a billion goats on the planet" and yet in our country they are considered a "minor species". So if 1 billion is minor I imagine the percentage of working goats is infinitesimally insignificant in the view of the most people.
Hello IdahoNancy
RE:The Eye contact Study
I recognize your math breakdown and can agree with it.
The thing I don't agree with having worked with (Egg Head) horse studies with the WSU.
Is that most of them doing the study on goats don't know what END THE HAY GOES IN and were the Goat Berries come out.
I managed the WSU horse herd for a few years on the WSU Farm. It was not unusual to have a PHD Instructor come up and ask " How do you do this, can you catch horse # for the students to examine.
Students I had no problem helping out many had never been around Large animals. No problem they got a extra free Horse 101 class from me and often came back after school to sit around the barn and learn more.
Back to topic:
Any of us that work goats knows how often they look directly at you  to see what you are doing or thinking.
Maybe we all Pack Goat people should do a "Study" on working Goat we have on the "Eye Contact" thing.
It would not cost the public millions of dollars either and be a paper that would factually prove the concept and intelligence of working goats. Smile

.jpg   Mine Goat.jpg (Size: 22.39 KB / Downloads: 49)

Enjoy this working mine goat picture.

Moving on:

How many times have you seen your goats look back and make eye contact like this with you?
What way do we go

.jpg   What way do we go.JPG (Size: 32.29 KB / Downloads: 48)

Happy Trails
hihobaron Blizzard,Fuzzy,Pete, Sam and the Troops in SC
Cows bond as well, I would say. But as they are also being used less and less as working partners nobody notices.

There's a very interesting blog (German) about a young lady and her oxen who wandered through Germany for several years. She described very detailled the bond between her and the oxen.
Sabine from Germany
[Image: zoVgi.gif]

Sanhestar (Sabine)
You are right a cow can bond.
I come from milk cow country, Wisconsin USA.
Pulled more than a few tits (milking) Holsteins
Worked with beef breeds.
One breed of cow that I did like was Brown Swiss. (Friend Raised Registered Breeding stock)
You could go out to pasture with her herd and they would walk up for a good scratch.
I also have met up with one OX at a Rendy that would pull a cart and ride. that was interesting.
I think I could train one/ I have looked up the history of the OX and have the livestock back ground.
BTY: I hate Cow Flop, Much Prefer Road Apples from horses and now Goat Berries. Smile
RE: The OX Girl 2 Questions for you.
#1 How did she get him up to Autobahn Speed Smile
#2 How many cow flops to KM did she get?
I would like to read about her experiences only problem is I don't read German. is there a English translation?
Happy Trails
One Last though: Try getting a 1000 pound OX to jump up into the back of your truck to go walkabout Smile
hihobaron Blizzard , Fuzzy, Pete ,Sam and the Troops in South Carolina.

I tried to find the blog this morning but had no luck.

The ox was a "Altes Deutsches Niederungsrind" which roughly translates to the black and white dairy breed that was common in Germany before the Holsteins took over. He had been raised on the Domäne Dahlem (historic farm near Berlin) and been used for farm work before he was sold.

Last I read his owner had to retire him because he grew too heavy to continue pulling her waggon.

There's a small bullockie-community in Germany, trying to keep up the use of cows and oxen for driving and riding. And a "cow school" in Switzerland, she works with Brown Swiss -
Sabine from Germany
[Image: zoVgi.gif]


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