Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/21/lamb_cutlets/

Sheep as smart as humans: Official

El Reg lamb cutlet chef begs to differ

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 21st February 2011 17:02 GMT

A Cambridge Uni prof has provocatively suggested that sheep aren't actually as thick as a Fair Isle woollen sweater, and can match humans in the tricky task of identifying food amid a confusion of buckets.

Neuroboffin Jenny Morton herded a flock of Welsh mountain sheep and presented them with variously-coloured buckets, only one of which contained nosh.

Incredibly, the sheep were able to find nourishment in the same number of attempts it takes a monkey or a human, viz: seven.

Prof Morton said: "They have a reputation for being extremely dim, so I didn't expect them to be so amenable to testing and certainly didn't expect them to be so smart. In our tests they performed at a level very similar to monkeys and humans in the initial learning tasks.

"When we then changed the rules they still performed as well as monkeys and better than rodents. They are quite intelligent animals – they seem to be able to recognise people and even respond when you call their name."

Traditional journalistic rigour demands that we cast a sceptical eye over this science-light report of Morton's findings in the Evening Standard and conduct an in-depth analysis of her methodology.

In this case, however, we're not going to bother, since we're pretty certain that if we sit a sheep in front of a Sudoku and suggest that if it solves the puzzle in less than 20 minutes it won't end up the oven, it'll be lamb cutlets at Vulture Central tonight.

And while we're licking the sheep fat from our fingers, we'd like to challenge Morton to answer one of the great questions of our age: are gay sheep more intelligent than their bovine counterparts, and are either smarter than homosexual flamingos? ®