Why Are All the Cows Lying Down?

February 14, 2024

Cows are individual animals who act on their own accord. They can be tipped over for all sorts of reasons—swollen hocks, bloat, pregnancy, lacerations, arthritis, age, etc.—and a good cow will get up when she is ready, not necessarily in a hurry to do so. If a cow is so weak, or ill, that she cannot stand up, and she is lying down for a long time, it can lead to her death. That is called "cow tipping" and it can be very dangerous for the animal.

There is an old adage that says, "if all the cows are lying down, rain is coming." This may have originated because cattle often lie down prior to precipitation, but correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Cows lie down for all sorts of reasons, such as rest, rumination, or social interaction. In addition, they might be influenced by environmental changes (such as atmospheric pressure or temperature drops) that often precede rain.

Interestingly, one scientific study that has been cited by frivolous media actually supports this adage—but not because of rain, but rather because cows tend to lie down more often when it is chilly. This is because they prefer to preserve a dry patch of grass to keep their stomach (they have only one, really) warm.

Nonetheless, it's a charming, and largely true, folk belief—and a great reason to avoid cow pastures when it is drizzly or cloudy!


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