Goats Can Tell if You Are Happy or Angry by Your Voice Alone
Published:21 Mar.2024    Source:City University of Hong Kong

Long known for their own sonorous vocal skills, goats in the study tended to spend longer gazing towards the source of the sound after a change in the valence of a human voice, i.e., when the playback switched from a happier to an angrier sounding voice or vice versa. Goats can tell the difference between a happy-sounding human voice and an angry-sounding one, according to research co-led by Professor Alan McElligott, an expert in animal behaviour and welfare at City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK).

This study offers the first evidence that goats can discriminate between cues expressed in the human voice, namely, emotional valence. These findings contribute to the limited literature available indicating livestock, like companion animals, are sensitive to human emotional cues. The team have also demonstrated that goats encode their bleating with information related to their individual identity and emotional experiences.
The results indicated that 75% of the goats that looked at the speaker following a change in valence looked for more extended periods, suggesting these goats had perceived the shift in the emotional content of human voice playbacks. Many goats failed to respond to the change in valence, which might be due to variations in cognitive abilities among goats to perceive human emotional cues, among other external factors.