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"It's Written On Goats' Faces"

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Rurlife.com    18
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Do goats’ faces express their feelings? And do they recognize ours? Animal behavior researchers are busy finding out.

Goats are smart animals. They make facial expressions and respond to those of other goats, as researchers are discovering. They can pick up social signals from companions and herd-mates through body language, bleating, and also more subtle expressions, such as tension in the facial muscles.

Last year, Scottish and French scientists found that goats paid more attention to photographs of herd-mates showing negative expressions (in response to an unpleasant sensation) than to herd-mates looking relaxed (during a grooming session). This demonstrates that they recognize feelings conveyed by their companions’ faces.

We are so used to communicating through words and expressions; little do we realize our farmyard friends may use systems similar to ours. In fact, facial expression is a hot topic among animal welfare researchers as a potential key to understanding what livestock need for optimum health and welfare. Emotional expression is both a communicative gesture and a display of inner feelings. Mammals have similar facial muscles, which are affected by emotion in similar ways: tension in stressful, painful and other negative circumstances; relaxation at calm moments; protection of eyes and ears during danger; and movement of eyes, ears and nostrils to capture important input.

Facial Expressions

We can generalize that wide-open eyes revealing whites indicate a negative state of mind, normally fear or stress. Eyelids are retracted to improve peripheral vision, so increasing vigilance and readiness to react to danger. Whites of the eyes are revealed as eyeballs move around, checking for signs of danger. Ears swivel around to pinpoint the direction of potential threats. Surprise and uncertainty are marked by ears pointing in different directions. These are all good defense mechanisms to protect the animal from danger. However, exposure to too many frightening events is not good for your herd’s health or peace of mind. Continual stress lowers the immune system and reduces growth and yield.

 

See more with picture examples here.

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