Chris Muir's Day By Day

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Which Way Is North?

Consult a cow.

If you're lost in the countryside without a compass, don't panic.

Just look for a herd of cows and see which way they are pointing.

After monitoring the behaviour of thousands of cattle, scientists have found that they tend to face north after aligning themselves with the Earth's magnetic field.

The astonishing ability appears to be a relic of the days when the wild ancestors of today's domesticated cattle used inbuilt compasses to find their way across the plains of Africa, Asia and Europe on long migrations.

The finding - based on satellite images of cattle all over the world - has astonished farmers and animal behaviourists.

Although cows are famed for their ability to forecast rain hours in advance, their talent for navigating has so far gone overlooked.

Dozens of species of animals use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate - including birds, turtles, termites and salmon.



Next on Mythbusters: Is Cows' Direction Sense Bullshit?

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