Can cows predict bad weather?

15 November 2016

COWS

Fresian (Holstein) Cows

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Question

My ex miltary husband told me he was taught in training when the cows in a field lay down that bad weather was on its way and to find shelter. Is there any truth in this?  
Ps i love your podcasts, love them!

Answer

Chris Smith put this to climate scientist Doug Crawford-Brown from the University of Cambridge...

Doug - Yeah, well again this goes into those sort of myth categories. It does have some scientific basis. I mean cows do - well all animal sense when air pressure is changing, and when you're getting ready to have rain you usually are accompanied by some sort of a change in the pressure. However, there are much more compelling reasons why cows lie down - they're not feeling well, they're tired and so forth. I would doubt that a cow lying down would be very good indicators that rain is coming along.

Chris - Are there actually any indicator species that we can rely on that predict the weather - not just cows but other things in the environment that do tell us, aha this is going to happen climatically or something?

Doug - Yeah, various birds or bats for example - well not strictly birds but bats are a reasonably good indicator that you're getting ready for bad weather anyway, low and high pressure zone is about to collide. But most of the animals are responding to many other things. Air pressure tends to be the one that most animals respond to because they've got sensors in their ears, let's say - not exactly but in their ears.

Georgia - What do the bats and birds actually do? Because I can remember reading an Asterix and Obelix cartoons that were saying.

Chris - Ah well known scientific source of information.

Georgia - Obelix was always saying "birds are flying low, we shall have rain." Is that what they do?

Doug - No, they simply tend to get more agitated and to fly around more. So you start to see large swirls of sparrows, for example, that are swirling about like in horror movies. And that usually indicates there's a storm coming along the horizon. But it's not a good indicator. I would not bet my retirement fund on these animals' behaviour.

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