Actual Headline: Sheep Recognize Obama

Actual Headline: Sheep Recognize Obama

It's always been known a flock can become familiar with the visages of their human handlers.

If you ever find yourself in the company of sheep, don't be surprised if they seem to recognize you.

"These data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates", claims the study, published today in Royal Society Open Science.

Emma Watson, Jake Gyllenhaal, journalist Fiona Bruce and Barack Obama all walk into a sheep pen.

Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not.

Every time an animal picked the celebrity face instead of a different image on a second screen, it would get a food reward.

The sheep were also able to recognize the celebrity faces when the person's head was at an angle rather than just straight on, though the scientists noted a drop in performance "of a magnitude similar to that seen when humans perform this task".

The sheep made the correct choice of celebrity or handler roughly 70 percent of the time on average.

Obviously the study focused on only eight domestic sheep, and it does mention some potential alternative interpretations of the data. People recognise familiar faces easily, and can identify unfamiliar faces from repeatedly presented images. Past research has shown that horses, dogs, and even mockingbirds can discern between individuals of other species.

According to the study, this ability has been shown before only in humans.

A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients.

The researchers say this study of the ability of sheep to recognize faces may be useful in research into Huntington's disease and other human brain disorders that affect mental processing.

"If this is the case, we can use the test to measure the beneficial effect of new treatments".