Sheep Much More Intelligent Than Assumed

Researchers at the University of Cambridge put Welsh mountain sheep through a battery of tests and concluded that the animals — generally not believed to be very smart — are actually as intelligent as some monkeys, rodents and humans.

Colored buckets were placed in front of the sheep containing food items. When the sheep learned which colors matched different foods, the foods were placed in different buckets. It took the sheep the same amount of time to learn the new color-to-food relationship as it did monkeys and rodents. One of the researchers is now conducing tests to see if sheep make plans for the future. (If they do, they will have bested some humans — who don’t plan for their retirement, for example).

Professor Jenny Morton said, “Our tests showed they can do what is known as executive decision making. We looked at whether they were able to understand rules and got them to do what is known as a choice discrimination task. But when we changed the rules, they behaved pretty much as a human in that they got bothered about us changing those rules.” (Source: BBC)

The researchers focused on sheep to see if they would be good subjects for further studies as they might relate to Huntington’s Disease in humans. Huntington’s is a genetic brain disorder causing nerve cells in the brain to degenerate. It can cause dementia, memory loss, paranoia, confusion, irritability, and unusual physical movements.

So, once again, a human assumption about animal intelligence has been proven wrong. This discovery has added more evidence to the case that there is much about animals we don’t understand.

Image Credit: Jonathan Billinger

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85 comments

J.L. A.
JL A.4 years ago

wow!

Michele Wilkinson

ALL animals have more intelligence than we humans credit them with.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

amazing

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

Sending a Green Star is a simple way to say "Thank you"

You cannot currently send a star to colleen because you have done so within the last week.

New G.
W. C.4 years ago

Thank you.

jane richmond
jane richmond5 years ago

interesting

Kali MacDonald
Kali MacDonald5 years ago

I believe that most animals are far more intelligent and emotional then we let on. I think they have an understanding far superior then we are even aware.

Valerie G.
Valerie G.5 years ago

"Intelligent as some monkeys, rodents and humans".
I believe it!
Thank you again Jake!

colleen prinssen
colleen p.5 years ago

what about the goats? are they smarter than sheep?

mrs v.
valerie murphy5 years ago

Not surprised I live on the moors and a lot of people keep sheep as pets.