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Sheep don't forget a face

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 17 May 2007

The discovery of a remarkable memory shows that sheep are not so stupid after all.


The human brain has evolved specialized neural mechanisms for visual recognition of faces, which afford us a remarkable ability to discriminate between, remember and think about many hundreds of different individuals. Sheep also recognize1,2,3,4 and are attracted to1,5 individual sheep and humans by their faces, as they possess similar specialized neural systems in the temporal and frontal lobes for assisting in this important social task6,7, including a greater involvement of the right brain hemisphere3,7. Here we show that individual sheep can remember 50 other different sheep faces for over 2 years, and that the specialized neural circuits involved maintain selective encoding of individual sheep and human faces even after long periods of separation.

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Figure 1: Behavioural and electrophysiological evidence of long-term face recognition by sheep.

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Correspondence to Keith M. Kendrick.

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Kendrick, K., da Costa, A., Leigh, A. et al. Sheep don't forget a face. Nature 414, 165–166 (2001).

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