Sheep trained to recognize Jake Gyllenhaal, for science

A sheep recognises Emma Watson's face- no trouble at all

A new study shows that sheep have the ability to recognize human faces from photographs on computer screens. But it's been unclear whether the skill was real recognition or simple memorization.

Morton and her team recently began research on sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the mutation for Huntington's disease.

As with some other animals such as dogs and monkeys, sheep are social animals and can recognise other sheep as well as familiar humans.

In experiments in which the animals were rewarded with food for picking out portraits of Bruce, Watson and Barack Obama, sheep proved they were experts at identifying individuals.

Then the sheep were shown two photographs: one of the celebrity and a random face.

Next, researchers paired a celebrity mug, like Gyllenhaal's now-familiar face, with an unfamiliar person.

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In fact, they could even recognise people when pictures were altered or were taken from a different angle, an ability only previously recorded in humans and primates.

When the handler's face was shown, sheep picked it seven out of 10 times.

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.

If you ever find yourself in the company of sheep, don't be surprised if they seem to recognize you. Eight times out 10 the sheep picked the celebrity.

In a final test, the sheep had to choose between a picture of one of their handlers' faces and an unfamiliar face. The scientists have been rewarded better for measuring the brain functions of sheep.

The animals' success rate fell by around 15 per cent when presented with the faces at a new angle, an amount researchers said was comparable to that seen when humans perform the task. "My guess is that the ability of sheep to recognize human faces is a by-product of selection to discriminate between different sheep faces", he says.

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