Goats And Happy People Are Good for Each Other’s Mental Health

goatkisses

Hungarian researchers have now shed a light on what many goat fanciers have known all along.  Their study results showed that 63 volunteers felt better and even more trusting than 62 study participants that went to a botanical garden for the same length of time. Goats are medicinal even if you don’t drink the milk!

The entire abstract from the study is included below.

The effects of animal caretaking on human well-being and social judgments – a field study A. Temesi (1), Á. Pogány (1), B. Bereczky (2), Á. Miklósi (1,2) (1) Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. (2) MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary.

“Human-animal interaction (HAI) studies have shown that after positive interaction with animals, the concentrations of plasma and urinary oxytocin increases in humans, while the degree of state anxiety decreases. Moreover, intranasally administered oxytocin improves the ability of humans to infer mental states based on the eye region of other humans, increases emotional empathy and the feeling of trust in other humans. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of animal care taking on human well-being and social judgements in a field study. The experimental group (n = 63) consisted of volunteers on a goat farm where they took care of goats and goatlings. Subjects in the control group (n = 62) visited a botanical garden. Hence, participants in the two groups were exposed to similar conditions (natural setting, mild physical activity), but only those in the experimental group had positive interaction with animals. We investigated the effects of animal caretaking using similar tests as those used in previous studies which investigated the effects of intranasally administered oxytocin. In the experimental group, after HAI, we observed a greater decrease in state anxiety and a more pronounced increase in trust than in the control group. One strength of our study is that we were able to show the positive effects of interaction with animals in a completely natural environment and situation. Based on our results, volunteer programs on farms – becoming more and more popular in recent years – may become an important new direction in animal-assisted therapy.”

It turns out that goats are extraordinarily good at reading people. It may be this talent that promotes certain beneficial goat and human interactions. Research out of England illustrates that you don’t even need to verbalize your mood for a goat to get where your head is that, they simply read your expression.

“The team found that images of happy faces elicited greater interaction in the goats who looked at the images, approached them and explored them with their snouts. This was particularly the case when the happy faces were positioned on the right of the test arena suggesting that goats use the left hemisphere of their brains to process positive emotion.

First author Dr. Christian Nawroth, who worked on the study at Queen Mary University of London but is now based at Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, said: “We already knew that goats are very attuned to human body language, but we did not know how they react to different human emotional expressions, such as anger and happiness. Here, we show for the first time that goats do not only distinguish between these expressions, but they also prefer to interact with happy ones.”

From my personal experience, my goats do approach me more when I am openly smiling or laughing. It feels great to see the intensity of their gaze, and apparently, they like it to.  In fact, they like the loving gaze of other animals as well, even dogs, a potential predator.  In 2014, a skeptical researcher was astonished to find that a goat/dog friendship was chemically verifiable.  After a rousing bout of play between these two longtime friends, the dog showed a slight but significant rise in oxytocin.  The real shocker to the investigator was that the goat displayed an increase of that happiness hormone of over 200 percent!  That goat really loved that dog.

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Charles Darwin theorized that emotions are global across species, and modern science may now be confirming beyond a reasonable doubt that he was right. Cross-species friendships that increase oxytocin may make humans more moral, less depressed, and more altruistic.  Plainly, the world is in need of more face gazing goats.

Please note that when you purchase any animal product through this blog, 2% of your purchase is dedicated to an animal rescue. For more information on this rescue go to RACEB.

2 comments

  1. So glad for this research to add to the movement towards more animals for therapy. Having seen and used goats, chickens, cats, dogs and horses for the Veterans I have worked with has been amazing.
    We need to have insurance companies and the government agencies such as the VA to recognize and provide coverage for Animal Assisted Therapy.

  2. That is an excellent observation! Would you care to cite a specific example that might prove informative for readers wondering if an alternative pet would be useful for their condition? Change names if you need to. Thank you for weighing in on this matter.

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