Humans (at least most of us) are the most intelligent species on the planet. We may not be perfect, but our brain power is undeniably strong. There are a few animals that potentially rival our intellect – for example, dolphins are thought to be able to solve complex problems, exhibit creativity and even use tools.
On the other end of the scale, pandas, koalas, sloths and even some farmyard animals are considered as the least intelligent mammals. But where do sheep stand on this spectrum? Let’s find out…
- Humans are experts in facial recognition. In fact, a whole segment of our brain is dedicated to facial recognition (the fusiform facial area). But surprisingly, sheep aren’t too far behind. In one study conducted in 2001, Kendrick and colleagues found that sheep are able to recognise the faces of at least 50 other sheep! This suggests that sheep are very socially adept animals! What is even more impressive is that sheep can remember these faces for up to 2 years!
Similarity to human brain
- Another study by Morton and Avanzo (2001) found that sheep are the only large animal, other than humans and monkeys to be able to perform certain complex tasks. This similarity to the human brain has huge implications, because scientists are starting to use sheep to aid the understanding of disorders like Huntington’s Disease. This disorder causes uncontrolled movements and a loss of thinking ability in humans. People with Huntington’s often don’t live past 40 years old. Therefore, the fact that sheep can help in this field of research is ground-breaking!
Categorisation of plants
- Another impressive skill of sheep is their ability to categorise plants according to their botanical family, just like humans do with food groups! This increases their efficiency when foraging through many different types of plants. These plant preferences change based on their age, gender and whether or not they’re pregnant.
Despite being renowned for their ‘following of the crowd’ mentality, sheep possess great individual brain power! They are experts in the field of facial recognition and memory and can outperform monkeys on some pretty complex tasks.
So the next time you see a sheep, just keep in mind that they’ll remember your face – so be careful!
Standard Wool have been trading wool for centuries.
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