If you’ve ever seen eye-to-eye with a goat, you may have noticed something different. Some people may even find their gaze outright unsettling. That’s because the goats’ pupils are horizontal—not circular like ours, or vertical like a cat’s.
Why have goats evolved this peculiar trait? According to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, the shape of goats’ pupils can be traced back to their place in the food chain.
Goats are herbivores, and need to be able to protect themselves when a predator comes along. A broad line of sight, aided by wide, rectangular-shaped pupils, allows them to see danger approaching from their peripheral vision.
Their eyes also have a remarkable ability to “rotate in the head to maintain parallelism with the ground,” says Martin Banks, the lead researcher on the University of California study. This means that when goats bend their head down to graze, their eyes stay level with the horizon, allowing them an even better view of encroaching danger.
Horizontal pupils are one of the many things that make goats unique, and in our opinion, reason to love and protect them all the more!