Goats are as clever as dogs, say researchers at Queen Mary's University

Lead researcher Dr Christian Nawroth with an affectionate goat
Image caption Lead researcher Dr Christian Nawroth with an affectionate goat

You've probably never had a chat with a goat. But new research shows they're just as good at communicating with humans as dogs are.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London found that goats respond to people by gazing at them to help solve problems.

Their responses change depending on the person's behaviour.

To find out if goats really could be our friends, Newsbeat called goat owner Amanda Phipps.

"They do gaze at me a lot," says Amanda, who lives in East Sussex with her two goats, Ebony, 10, and Jack, nine.

"They'll check me out to see if they've done something naughty. Like a child, they can see if you're cross."

To test goats' intelligence, the QMUL researchers trained them to remove a lid from a box to receive a reward.

Jack (l) and Ebony having a run around
Image caption Jack (l) and Ebony having a run around

In the final test, they hid the reward and recorded how the goats responded when the experimenters were either facing them or had their backs turned.

The goats tended to switch their gaze between the inaccessible treat and the human, just like a dog would when asking its owner for food.

Amanda says her goats do the same.

"They always know where you're going to give them their treat from, even if I hide it in a different place.

"They will work together to find it."

Goats were the first animals to be domesticated, about 10,000 years ago.

This goat took part in the research
Image caption This goat took part in the research

A previous study from QMUL even found that some goats develop accents.

So it's no surprise that they know how to respond to humans.

"Jack and Ebony show the same moods and emotions that all pets have," says Amanda.

"Sometimes they're boisterous and rip all the clothes off the washing line and dance on it.

"But after they've eaten in the afternoon they become very peaceful and will sit with you. It's very relaxing."

And they are clever.

Ebony and Jack in their enclosure. They have learned to open the gate.
Image caption Ebony and Jack have learned to open the gate to their enclosure

"They've worked out how to open their gate by nuzzling at it too.

"They do have a long-term memory, and they're escape artists.

"Even if they come up against another type of lock, they will give it a try."

Amanda says her friends didn't believe her when she told them she was going to foster two goats from a local sanctuary.

But now she says they can see Ebony and Jack are good pets.

"It's been a revelation to see these two animals, which you'd think of as wild, being so loving.

"They really do have feelings and emotions and seem to thrive on kind human contact and affection."

The RSPCA has a guide to goat ownership.

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