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Goats Are Much Smarter Than People Previously Thought

New research shows goats can quickly learn a puzzle, and remember how to solve it.

Smart goat. A goat pulling a lever (A), lifting a lever (B), and enjoying the "fruit" of its labor (C). Briefer et al. / Frontiers in Zoology

Smart goat. A goat pulling a lever (A), lifting a lever (B), and enjoying the “fruit” of its labor (C).
Briefer et al. / Frontiers in Zoology

Do you think that goats are dumb and unintelligent? Then you need to take a second thought about it .

The latest research demonstrated that most goats that were tested could rapidly learn how to work out a “mechanical puzzle” that resulted in getting a tasteful piece of fruit. In this situation, the goats had to complete the highly novel cognitive task involved in pulling on and then lifting up a lever.

Such two-step process would lead to opening a box within which there was a piece of fruit. Among 12 goats that were tested, nine of them took it with more than ten trials on average. Two of them were disqualified, because they were trying to open the fruit-box with their horns, which should be a smart idea as well. And one goat was dismissed from the testing list, for it failed to finish the task even after 22 trials.

After 10 months, the scientists tested the goats again. To their surprise, the goats were able to solve the puzzle much more quickly than the previous time and they could complete the tasks just within two minutes.

Dr Elodie Briefer, at ETH Zurich, co-author of the paper published in Frontiers in Zoology” said that the speed at which the goats accomplished the task during the period of ten months in comparison with the length of time they spent in learning clearly showed that the goats had excellent long-term memory.

The study conducted Dr Elodie Briefer and his colleague demonstrates that goats are able to learn rather rapidly and to store the lessons they learned in long-term memory as well.

Researchers had kind of suspicion that on the basis of their capability to colonize totally new and difficult situations, the goats were intelligent enough to find out and memorize the location of the foods that were hard to reach, for instance Moroccan goats are well-known to reach sprigs by climbing trees. During their relatively long life span, they could build up all memories and skills necessary in their life.


Briefer, Elodie F., et al. “Goats excel at learning and remembering a highly novel cognitive task.” Frontiers in Zoology 11.1 (2014): 20.