… Have you ever noticed anything peculiar about cows when they eat? No? Well, neither did anyone else until some German scientists started looking at satellite photos of cows using the high tech wonder-software known as “Google Earth.” It turns out that all cows, everywhere, simultaneously face north (or south) while eating.
Scientists have a pretty good idea how they do this; like most every other animal on Earth that isn’t a human, cows (and deer and sheep) can detect the planet’s magnetic fields, so well in fact that power lines [screw] up their feeding. The big question is why in hell do they bother?
Have you ever noticed that herds of grazing animals all face the same way?
Images from Google Earth have confirmed that cattle tend to align their bodies in a north-south direction.
Wild deer also display this behaviour – a phenomenon that has apparently gone unnoticed by herdsmen and hunters for thousands of years.
In the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say the Earth’s magnetic fields may influence the behaviour of these animals.
The Earth can be viewed as a huge magnet, with magnetic north and south situated close to the geographical poles.
Many species – including birds and salmon – are known to use the Earth’s magnetic fields in migration, rather like a natural GPS.
A few studies have shown that some mammals – including bats – also use a “magnetic compass” to help their sense of direction.
Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, has mainly studied the magnetic sense of mole rats – African animals that live in underground tunnels.
“We were wondering if larger animals also have this magnetic sense,” she told BBC News. …
Professor John Phillips, a sensory biologist from Virginia Tech University, US, commented that this sixth magnetic sense might be “virtually ubiquitous in the animal kingdom”. – bbc