Goats could rival dogs as man's new best friend
They may seem an unusual candidate for the title of man's best friend, but scientists have suggested that goats could rival dogs in forming an emotional bond with their owners.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London aim to prove that goats are much cleverer than previously thought and interact with people in a similar way to pets, having trodden a path of domestication for 10,000 years.
Their latest experiment, documented in 'Biological Letters', showed that goats will gaze imploringly at their owners when they are struggling to complete a task, a trait common in dogs but not wolves, for example, who have never learned how to co-exist with humans.
The team has also demonstrated that goats can work out how to break into a sealed box using levers, a task used to gauge intelligence in apes. They can even remember the skill four years later without prompting.
"Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans in a species that was domesticated primarily for agricultural production, and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals," said Dr Christian Nawroth, one of the study's authors.
The stated aim of the research is to improve the animal's welfare.
"If we can show that they are more intelligent, then hopefully we can bring in better guidelines for their care," co-author Dr Alan McElligott said.