Italians and Germans may love insulting people by calling them “dumb as a goat,” but new research suggests goats may be smarter than you think.
In an experiment conducted by Christian Nawroth, Jemma M. Brett, and Alan G. McElligott of Queen Mary University of London, caprines from Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats were able to learn how to open a plastic container that held a reward without any help from humans. The reward? Pasta. According to Nawroth, goats love pasta.
“They go crazy for it,” he said. “Some goats like apples, some don’t. I haven’t found any goat that does not like pasta.”
The experiment started with the lid of the plastic container resting on the container, which the goats could simply nudge off with their nose. After just three trials, there was a “significant reduction in the time taken for the goats to retrieve the reward,” according to the report.
But goats’ intelligence is not the only evidence discovered in this study. The researchers created an “unsolvable problem” when they snapped the cover of the containers on, securing the pasta inside. Nawroth told NPR that goats expressed dependence and longing for humans when they struggled to open the containers. The Telegraph even claimed the study “suggested that goats could rival dogs in forming an emotional bond with their owners.”
In an interview with NPR, Nawroth explained their findings: “They not only gazed at the human [when they could not obtain the pasta from the box] but approached, stood for a brief period in front of the human, then turned back to the box. Speaking with a little bit of anthropomorphism, I’d say it looks like they try to get you to the box, to point out they had a problem with this and they need help.” After 10,000 years of domestication, it may not be surprising to find that goats have grown to rely on humans for help.
In the interview, Nawroth also noted other benefits of owning goats as pets, including their production of milk, their meat, and even the relaxing, therapeutic effects of spending time around them. But before you go out and buy yourself a pet goat, Nawroth says to keep in mind that goats’ needs are different from other typically domesticated animals.
“Dogs are more attached to humans,” he said. “Goats are social animals that need to be around other goats. If you think a pet goat is a good idea you should make sure you meet their needs: a huge backyard and more than one goat.”