Using a comparative approach, we investigated the ability of dwarf goats and sheep to use direct and indirect information about the location of a food reward in an object-choice task. Subjects had to choose between two cups with only one covering a reward. Before making a choice, subjects received information about the baited (direct information) or nonbaited cup (indirect information). Both goats and sheep were able to use direct information (presence of food) in the object choice task. After controlling for local enhancement, we found that goats rather than sheep were able to use indirect information (i.e., the absence of food) to find a reward. The actual test setup could not clarify whether individual goats were able to inferentially reason about the content of the baited cup when only shown the content of the non-baited cup or if they simply avoided the empty cup in that situation. As browsing species, feral and wild goats exhibit highly selective feeding behaviour compared to the rather unselective grazing sheep. The potential influence of this species-specific foraging flexibility of goats and sheep for using direct and indirect information to find a food reward is discussed in relation to a higher aversion to losses in food acquisition in goats compared to sheep.
Nawroth, C., von Borell, E., & Langbein, J. (2014). Exclusion performance in dwarf goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) and sheep (Ovis orientalis aries). PLoS One, 9(4), e93534.