Goats have been found to prefer people who are grinning rather than scowling when shown pictures of both. Picture: Wikipedia

London - Farmyard animals can react to humans with fear, indifference or occasionally – in the case of goats – hostility.

But they can be won over with a smile, just like dogs, scientists said.

Goats have been found to prefer people who are grinning rather than scowling when shown pictures of both. They mostly made straight for the smiling person, whose photograph they nuzzled.

Researchers at Queen Mary University in London tested 20 goats and found they spent about 50 percent longer with pictures of smiling people. It suggests goats, which have the reputation of being dim and partial to head-butting humans, actually have similar characteristics to dogs.

The ability to read expressions may be a side-effect of being domesticated, kept in petting zoos or used to provide milk.

Dr Alan McElligott, who led the research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said: "The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets."