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Clever Goats Can Learn Quickly

An image of a goat
(Image: © Brian Squibb)

Goats might be smarter than once thought — it turns out, they can quickly learn and remember how to perform certain tasks, according to a new study. The findings may help explain goats' ability to adapt to a variety of environments.

In the study, the researchers trained a group of goats to retrieve food from a box by pulling a lever, and then lifting it. It took the goats 12 tries on average to perform the trick.

"I wasn't surprised that they managed to do the work. I was surprised that they got it so quickly," said study author Alan McElligott, of Queen Mary University of London. [Video: Goat Enthusiastically Completes Cognitive Tests]

The goats' ability to retrieve food from the box may mean that the animals are generally good at problem solving, McElligott said, a skill that could come handy when they look for food and water sources.

The research team tested the goats' ability to remember the task after one month, and again after 10 months. And the animals still remembered how to retrieve the food at the later date.

The findings may help researchers understand why goats adapt easily to extreme environments. Wild goats live all over the world, from the hot and dry Galapagos Islands, to the cold and wet islands off the west coast of Scotland, McElligott said.

"They seem to be really good at colonizing these environments, and doing really well [in them]," McElligott told Live Science.The findings were published March 26 in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

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