Domestication and breeding objective did not shape the interpretation of physical and social cues in goats

Format of work:

Journal Article

Event presented at / Journal Name:

Scientific Reports

Speaker / Contact Author's Name:

Christian Nawroth

Speaker / Contact Author's E-mail Address:

  • Research aim:

    We investigated the impact of domestication and selection objective on the ability of goats to use physical and social information in an object-choice task.

  • Background:

    Artificial selection by humans, either through domestication or subsequent selection for specific breeding objectives, drives changes in animal cognition and behaviour. However, most previous cognitive research comparing domestic and wild animals has focused on companion animals such as canids, limiting any general claims about the effects of artificial selection by humans.

  • Approach:

    Using a cognitive test battery, we investigated the ability of wild goats (non-domestic), dwarf goats (domestic, not selected for milk production) and dairy goats (domestic, selected for high milk yield) to utilise physical and social cues in an object choice task.

  • Key finding:

    We did not find performance differences between the three groups in the cognitive test battery for either physical or social cues. This indicates that for a domestic non-companion animal species, domestication and selection for certain breeding objectives did not measurably shape the physical and cognitive skills of goats.

  • Industry or policy relevance:

    In order to provide good welfare to animals, we need to understand how they perceive and interact with their environment. The work highlighted here provides knowledge of the sophisticated ways goats can use and interpret physical and social cues to locate food.

  • Route for practical application:

    As this is fundamental comparative research, there are very limited direct practical implications.

  • Confidence in findings and next steps towards realising impact:

    This work provides first insights into the impact of domestication and selection objectives on the cognitive capacities of goats. This will help us to better understand how domestication has shaped the behaviour of domestic animals but also highlights the need to take breed-specific characteristics into account when aiming to make general statements on a domestic species' behaviour.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; LA 1187/6-1), Swiss National Fond (SNF; 310030E-170537), International Society for Livestock Husbandry (IGN).

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Nawroth, C., Wiesmann, K., Schlup, P., Keil, N., Langbein, J. Domestication and breeding objective did not shape the interpretation of physical and social cues in goats (Capra hircus). Sci Rep 13, 19098 (2023).