Most people do not give much thought to grazing cows, but when a team of scientists went through thousands of Google Earth’s satellite images of cows, they stumbled upon a detail that we have missed for millennia: Cows will stand along the Earth’s magnetic poles—facing north and south—whenever they’re grazing or resting. The pattern remained consistent regardless of wind or other factors, and nobody’s quite sure why.
While some animals are known to contain an internal compass, this is the first time it’s been found in a large mammal.
Another weird thing is that the nearer they are to the poles, the less accurate they get with the orientation. Scientists don’t know if the phenomenon is related to navigation or some miscalculated attempt at warding off predators, though it appears that it may have a purpose because of the consistency with which it was observed among cows across six continents.
The phenomenon may have an effect on agricultural production, as cows made to stay in an east-west orientation must be affected in some way, though nobody can say how.
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