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Like Dogs, Goats Bond with Humans Through Eye Contact

Cuteness within.
July 7, 2016, 10:00am

My dog, Harley, has giant-ass brown eyes that just crush people. He is dopamine in a fur coat. Strangers feel compelled to give him hugs.

His connection to people, its depth and consistency, is all in the eyes. My dog does not talk, but he does look directly into my eyes and it's in these moments where we reach our most profound cross-species understandings. There is no need to exchange complex information encoded syntactically because we have this, which is perfect and not ever wanting for some greater depth. Pardon the sap, but that's what it is.

The author's dog, Harley. Image: Abby Logsdon

It's also accepted science that dogs use their gaze as a mode of communication, or even expression. A widely circulated study from 2015 found that mutually-gazing dogs and humans experienced similar releases of oxytocin, a hormone implicated in social bonding. Other studies have found more practical purposes for eye contact, such as looking to humans for problem solving cues or just expressing desires.

According to new research published in Biology Letters, domesticated goats use their gaze in communicative ways as well. Basically, biologists took some goats and presented them with some "unsolvable problem," which is apparently a common paradigm in exploring domesticated animal behavior, and then observed the results. As you can see in the video above, the goats turned to their human companions with a look that clearly said "what even the fuck?", scientifically speaking.

"Our results show that animals domesticated primarily for production show audience-dependent human-directed behaviour in a similar manner to companion animals such as dogs and horses," the paper notes. "Thus, domestication has probably had a much broader impact on heterospecific communication than previously believed."

Good work, goats.