RESEARCH CARRIED out on sheep has concluded that they are more intelligent than most people think, reports New Scientist.

Sheep can distinguish between a friendly face and an angry face – of both humans and other sheep – and even decide which faces are socially and sexually acceptable.

Female sheep are also attracted to the faces of older male sheep when they see one that grabs them.

But sheep – like most other animals – do not posses the ability to recall at will thoughts about the past or consider the future.

They cannot, for instance, recall an image that they viewed just 10 seconds previously.

But they can recall incidences of the past if given strong environmental cues such as going back to a field where it was once chased by a dog, or seeing a particular food that it was taught to eat by its mother.

The findings, which are published in this week‘s (June 12) New Scientist magazine, reveal that sheep share many perception skills with humans.

Like humans, sheep tend to analyse a face in stages, first by simple external features such as outline and then by the appearance of ears and hair. 

Following a period of a couple of weeks, where the sheep becomes familiar with a human face, they can remember it for at least two years.

Also, like humans, they have trouble recognising faces pictured upside down, but they can distinguish faces that are merged together to show only 5% difference.

This is pretty impressive considering how much more acute a human‘s visual ability is compared with a sheep‘s, says the magazine.