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Study Shows Cow Herds Face North

Chew on This: Study Finds Herds Have a Built-in Compass

Next time you can't find the North Star, you might consider looking for the nearest pack of cows. A recent study of Google Earth satellite images found that herds of cattle gravitate to face in the north-south direction of Earth's magnetic lines. The study also noted some types of deer have shown the same pattern, according to the BBC.

Many smaller species, such as birds and salmon, are known to use the earth's magnetic fields in seasonal migration; however, these recent findings show larger mammals have a similar internal sense of direction.

The researchers surveyed Google Earth images of 8,510 grazing and resting cattle in 308 pasture plains across the world. Apparently, it was often hard for them to distinguish heads from tails, but they were able to determine that animals tend to face either north or south.

If you're wondering what this means,


The study ruled out the possibility that the sun or wind direction were major factors in the orientation of the cattle. A sensory biologist from Virginia Tech University points out scientists still need to consider what benefit this "sixth magnetic sense" might provide for mammals.

For now, it seems there are no immediate answers. Do you have any guesses? This whole phenomenon is sure to show up in the next edition of Trivial Pursuit.


Join The Conversation
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that it's really interesting to think that there's some magnetic relationship for animals. it means that they have a sense of things on a diff level than what we have since we don't register things in the same way. hmm....i like this and i might have to read more about it to really get into the thinking behind it.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
I like cows too. But on hot days, our whole city smells like manure. We call it the "Sonoma Aroma"
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
:lol: @ stephley
stephley stephley 8 years
Love the story, but haven't got a clue as to what's going on. I just like cows.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
I was just talking about this with a friend of mine...he's noticed it during his commute (he passes by a lot of cows :) ) that they always arranged themselves that way. The article I read also talked about minute magnetite particles found in the brain of some organisms (like bacteria, birds, whales and fish) that might help explain why they align themselves that way.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
True about them facing North or South - very interesting theory. Ohh, how I miss my cows and farm life sometimes.
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