Researchers at Queen Mary University in London peered into the beady square pupil eyes of a goat and asked the single worst question one can ask about a goat: "Could this thing be more like a dog?" Image: Getty
Apparently yes! Only not in any adorable way. A new study published in the Biological Letters did not ascertain if they could be trained, or even learn to stop chewing on your furniture. The study simply sought to see if goats would appeal to humans like dogs, horses and the occasional cat do. This is a fascinating idea, as noted by Dr Jenna Kiddie, a senior lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare at Anglia Ruskin University.
"We know a lot about cognition — crows, for example, being very intelligent," Kiddie told the Guardian. "But in terms of the social aspects of the relationship between humans and animals, that's still under explored."
While a great deal of research has been done examining the relationship between humans and "working" animals like dogs and horses, very little has been done examining the relationship between humans and other domesticated animals, like the goat. To test the relationship between goat and man, the researchers gave the goats a box and made it increasingly difficult to open the box. The goats, when faced with the impossible task, then did what dogs do and peered up at the humans "imploringly".
I use quotations because have you ever looked a goat in the eye? One could look into the depths of a black hole or a pit of dead kittens or the soulless eyes of Barney the Dinosaur and find more compassion, love and affection than one would find when faced with a goat.
Nevertheless, I reached out to a Colorado rancher currently faced with an influx of goats for comment on the new goat-dog research.
"I think goats are too stupid to seek human intervention," said the rancher who wished to remain anonymous, likely for fear of a goat uprising. I pointed out that science was not on her side, as the goats used in Queen Mary University's study did, in fact, seek out human aid. She replied, "Well, then they need to do more research."
So don't start planning a puppy play date with your pet goat just yet.