Why do cows point north in fields?

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V Magno

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« on: 16/09/2008 21:15:13 »
V Magno  asked the Naked Scientists:

I recall hearing an episode of your enlightening and entertaining show where you discussed some reasons why cows face a particular direction.

I think you concluded that it was either wind direction or the slope
of the terrain.  

Well apparently it might also have something to do with magnetic fields.  Perhaps long ago, before cows lost their wings, they used this skill to hep them navigate :)

What do you think?

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Offline neilep

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #1 on: 16/09/2008 21:37:22 »
Who said cows have lost their wings ?

[attachment=4634]

Nice butt !


Erhmm...I really am not so convinced that cows really do face a certain way for due to magnetic reasons. I suspect it must due to local environmental reasons.

Men are the same as women, just inside out !

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lyner

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #2 on: 16/09/2008 22:07:35 »
Perhaps they like to keep the Sun out of their eyes.

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Offline Make it Lady

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #3 on: 17/09/2008 00:26:35 »
It is for the same reason that you should put up a bird nesting box facing North. It is the wind!(and I'm not talking cow flatulence.) North winds are the coldest and so facing towards the North is the best way to stand on a cold day. Of course, I could be talking bullocks!
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day, set a man on fire and he is warm for the rest of his life.

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Offline Karen W.

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #4 on: 17/09/2008 01:14:45 »
I think you are correct!

"Life is not measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

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Offline neilep

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #5 on: 17/09/2008 01:25:20 »
As a firm believer in empirical study I have left my wife in a field. I will collect her in the morning and make a note of which way she is facing .
Men are the same as women, just inside out !

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Offline Karen W.

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #6 on: 17/09/2008 01:27:57 »
Neily!! LOL..I bet she lays a note on you too! LOL

"Life is not measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

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Offline Don_1

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #7 on: 17/09/2008 08:09:42 »
I have herd (pardon the pun) it has summat to do with their migration instinct. Of course this too could be a load of old cow pats!
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blakestyger

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #8 on: 17/09/2008 09:19:21 »
This hypothesis came from a study by a biologist from the University of Duisberg-Essen in Germany. Using satellite photos from Google Earth of over 300 herds of cattle it was noticed that grazing cows tended to align north-south.

Apparently the alignments weren't random and the average size of each beast's deviation from north-south was 5 degrees - not only that, field observations of deer herds revealed the same trend.

Yet more analysis showed that in locations where the angle between geographic and magnetic poles differs most (extreme latitudes and places where geology creates a stronger field) cows orientate more in line with magnetic poles than geographic poles.

The study concluded that it was unclear if or how it was related to orientation and navigation.

In a bid to say something useful about these findings the question of why a languorous beast like a cow should need an internal compass was asked. It was tentatively suggested that the ancestral habitat - dense forest, steppes or savannah grasslands - provided a clue; there were no landmarks.

Since coming across this in an old New Scientist I have been looking out for cattle herds whenever I'm on a train and so far they have nearly all been standing in line parallel to the track - which goes north-south!
« Last Edit: 17/09/2008 09:21:29 by blakestyger »

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Offline Latica

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Why do cows point north in fields?
« Reply #9 on: 04/10/2008 08:07:17 »
The mentioned study was done in Germany.  In the Tropics (the highlands of Costa Rica to be exact) we did our observations and the cows are usually facing East to Northeast, which is the direction the wind is usually coming from.