Sometimes when you’re old and a wife, it’s hard to be believable when stating a proverb. I can remember when my grandmother took us children to her home “upcountry” in New Hampshire we would pass many farms. Whenever we came upon a herd of cows laying down she would tell us it would be raining soon. When asked “how do you know Gram?” She would reply, “because those cows are laying down.” Of course we wouldn’t believe her. Our reply would be that that’s just an old wives tale! My grandmother grew up on a farm so she knew pretty much what she was talking about.
The old wives’ tale that cows lie down when it is about to rain may not be so far fetched after all, according to a new study by scientists. Researchers have discovered that cows stand up for longer periods when it is hot, proving there is a definite link between their behavior and the weather. They also suggest that cows lie down when it is colder, which is often what happens to the weather just before it rains.
|Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.|
According to sources, cows stand up for longer periods of time when it is hotter because it helps lower their core body temperature. By exposing more of their surface area, it allows their body heat to dissipate into the air. When cows get too hot they pant more, eat less and so produce less milk. Cows lie down when they want to conserve heat, and energy.
But this may also explain why it may be true that cows lie down when rain is on the way in more temperate climates. Rain is usually preceded by a bout of low pressure which is easy to detect and is also a sign that it is about to get colder and windier. If cows lose heat by standing up, as the US study now suggests, then detecting the arrival of colder weather will make them lie down to conserve heat.