Domestication has ensured that humans were never alone during most of our history. Dogs are by far the oldest domesticated animal, to the point where scientists cannot even identify the exact period when wolves became man’s best friend.
Not many people know, however, that goats have been domesticated by humans early on as well.
A recent animal behavioral study has shown that goats will literally look to humans when faced with a problem they cannot manage by themselves. This type of behavior was known and well documented in dogs and horses. Researchers were actually surprised to learn that goats instinctively trust humans.
The Goats Who Stare At Men
The scientific experiment is quite straightforward. Animals will be shown that a box contains treats. They will then be trained to get the treats from the box. After they evidently master getting treats from the box, scientists will change it to another box that also holds treats but cannot be opened.
The science does lie in the animal’s ability to quickly learn to get the treats but in their behavior once they realize they cannot open the box anymore. In the same overall scene, a human is present. In some situations, they will be facing the animal, in others, they will have their backs turned.
When faced with an unopenable treat-filled box and a human with their face turned to them, dogs and horses will look to the human’s eyes. This sort of gaze between species is also used in situations of danger that is too far for the animal to directly intervene.
The eye contact acts as a silent notification, either meant to ask for assistance or alert of danger.
For the purpose of the experiment, scientists were certain that goats, as animals domesticated for their milk and meat, would have an entirely different behavior when faced with a box they could not open.
However, it would seem that more than ten thousand years of living alongside humans has given goats an instinctive trust in humans. Even though humanity did not domesticate goats for their companionship, like they did with dogs and horses, the goats still look to us with full trust.
This trust, in turn, has made many of the scientists consider the possibility that we have been for too long mistreating a species which regards us as friends and companions.
Image Courtesy of YouTube.