It’s no secret that a smile can be contagious. After all, it’s hard to remain grumpy when in the presence of a happy face. This week, new research revealed that this phenomenon isn’t necessarily unique to humans.

Goats Love a Good Grin Too

The study, which was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, concluded that goats were more attracted to happy human facial expressions than angry ones.

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This may not seem like much of a groundbreaking discovery, but the fact that goats can differentiate between our moods at all speaks to a level of species-independent understanding previously unknown.

How The Discovery Was Made

Researchers were able to test this hypothesis by showing goats photos of the same person, one with a smile on their face and another with an agitated grimace. They then carefully observed the animals’ reactions to each picture.


The results were shocking. The team saw that, much like a friendly puppy greeting a stranger on the sidewalk, the goats were noticeably more physically responsive to the happy faces. Despite being domesticated for food production, they seemed to have an emotional awareness comparable to that of a house pet.

What it Means for The Entire Animal Kingdom

Could this change our relationship with what we eat? Scientists certainly think so. Report co-author Natalia Albuquerque had this to say: “The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets.”


“The study of emotion perception has already shown very complex abilities in dogs and horses. However, to date, there was no evidence that animals such as goats were capable of reading human facial expressions. Our results open new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals.”