The men who stare at goats - London boffins make farmyard breakthrough

09:01 20 June 2012

Help: Volunteers tend animals at Wellgate Farm

Help: Volunteers tend animals at Wellgate Farm

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Mother goats can remember their kids’ voices more than a year after they have been separated, boffins at a London university have found.

Researchers recorded calls made by five-week-old pygmy goats and played them back to their mothers.

The mother goats were able to recognise their individual kids’ calls after as long as 12 to 18 months.

Study leader Dr Elodie Briefer, from Queen Mary, University of London, said: “Because of the difficulties involved in following the same individuals over years, long-term recognition has been studied in only a few species.

“Our study shows that animals remember socially important partners.”

The research is reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Long-term recognition of social partners helps to maintain relationships in species that live in groups, said the scientists.

This could be especially important in animals experiencing long separation periods through migration or hibernation, or that live in complex societies such as goats.

Dr Alan McElligott, also from Queen Mary, said: “Understanding the cognitive capacities of our domestic animals is important for animal welfare and providing the best possible living conditions, particularly if they have such long memories.”

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