Goats: Way Smarter Than You Thought

Study: They can learn complex tasks and remember them

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 29, 2014 6:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Goats aren't known for being the Einsteins of the animal kingdom, but they're highly adaptable to challenging environments—and that may be because they're a lot smarter than researchers had believed, Phys.org reports. Scientists in London and Switzerland gave goats what they called a "complex foraging task," per their paper published in Frontiers in Zoology: First, the animals had to pull on a rope to get at a lever. Next, they had to lift that lever to get a fruity snack, the Smithsonian reports. Nine of 12 goats tested were able to learn to do so within four tries. Two others tried to cheat using their horns, while one poor sap simply couldn't figure it out after 22 tries.

Ten months later, the nine champs were given the task again. Seems they hadn't forgotten what they'd learned: They all got to the fruit within about a minute. "Our results challenge the common misconception that goats aren't intelligent animals; they have the ability to learn complex tasks and remember them for a long time," says the study's co-author. "This could explain why they are so successful in colonizing new environments, though we would need to perform a similar study with wild goats to be sure." Speaking of goat smarts, Smithsonian notes that some goats in Morocco are known to climb trees, and they're not the only animal to surprisingly do so.

Goats eat vegetable leaves from a cart belonging to a man working in a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
Goats eat vegetable leaves from a cart belonging to a man working in a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, March 25, 2014.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Goats eat in Riverside Park in Victoria, Texas.
Goats eat in Riverside Park in Victoria, Texas.   (AP Photo/The Victoria Advocate, Frank Tilley)
A dairy goat is seen at Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, NC.
A dairy goat is seen at Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, NC.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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