A study published in the journal Animal Cognition, and published online by the U.S. National Institute of Health, has found that cows are able to effectively recognize familiar faces when viewing photographs, an indication that they’re much more intelligent than most people give them credit for.
“Here, we present two experiments aimed at testing the ability of cattle (Bos taurus) to visually discriminate between heads (including face views) of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics represented as 2D images”, states the study’s abstract. “In the first experiment, we observed the spontaneous behaviour of heifers when images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics were simultaneously presented
Our results show that heifers were more attracted towards the image of a familiar conspecific (i.e., it was chosen first, explored more, and given more attention) than towards the image of an unfamiliar one.”
In the second experiment, “the ability to discriminate between images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics was tested using a food-rewarded instrumental conditioning procedure.”
In this experiment; “Eight out of the nine heifers succeeded in discriminating between images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics and in generalizing on the first trial to a new pair of images of familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics, suggesting a categorization process of familiar versus unfamiliar conspecifics in cattle.”
Researchers conclude that; “Results of the first experiment and the observation of ear postures during the learning process, which was used as an index of the emotional state, provided information on picture processing in cattle and lead us to conclude that images of conspecifics were treated as representations of real individuals.”
The full study can be found by clicking here.