Sheep can be trained to recognize human faces, even from photographs. In a 2017 study at Cambridge University, researchers trained sheep to recognize photographs of four celebrities (Fiona Bruce, Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, and Emma Watson). They learned to distinguish a celebrity’s face from another face 8 out of 10 times, and their performance dropped only about 15% when they were shown photographs taken at an angle. When an unfamiliar photograph of a handler was inserted randomly in place of a celebrity, they chose that photo 7 out of 10 times.
“During this final task the researchers observed an interesting behaviour. Upon seeing a photographic image of the handler for the first time — in other words, the sheep had never seen an image of this person before — the sheep did a ‘double take’. The sheep checked first the (unfamiliar) face, then the handler’s image, and then unfamiliar face again before making a decision to choose the familiar face, of the handler.”
Sheep are long-lived and have relatively large brains, so it’s hoped that studying them will shed light on illnesses such as Huntington’s disease.
Also: Pigeons can distinguish Monet from Picasso, and rats can distinguish spoken Japanese from spoken Dutch. “A previous study by Porter and Neuringer (1984), who reported discrimination by pigeons between music and Bach and Stravinsky, and the present study suggest that pigeons have abilities that enable them to identify both musical and visual artists.”