Why Do Cows Lay Down at the Same Time?

February 14, 2024

Cows lie down a lot, for reasons that range from resting to chewing their cud. But the old legend that says a herd of cows lying down together means it’s going to rain hasn’t much evidence behind it. In fact, it’s probably just a coincidence. Cows might be reacting to atmospheric changes that often happen before rain, such as temperature drop or air pressure change, but it’s unlikely that they can predict the weather that way.

The most popular theory is that cows sense it’s about to rain by the increasing moisture in the air and decide to plop down to protect their grass, which they’re very fond of. However, this doesn’t explain why they don’t simply rise up again once the rain stops – presumably they can do this, but why not?

A more plausible theory is that cows feel the colder weather coming and lie down to keep themselves warm. This would explain why a herd of cows might feel the need to do so at the same time, but again it doesn’t explain why they don’t just rise up again once the rain stops – again, why not?

Another reason for a cow to lie down might be that it’s feeling unwell. There are lots of possible reasons for this, including swollen hocks, bloat, pregnancy, lacerations, arthritis and so on. In fact, a study that won an Ig Nobel prize suggested that the chances of a cow choosing to lie down or stand up decays with constant probability through time, much like a particle in a physics experiment.

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