Farmers have been putting trust in the future-predicting properties of their cattle for generations; when the cows lie down, it’s time to prepare for a storm. But is it a real phenomenon, or just an old wives’ tale?
The answer is a bit murky. Studies have found that cows can conserve their body heat when they lie down, and since a drop in temperature is one of the hallmarks of a coming storm, it might imply that cows can sense the temperature drop and prepare for the rain and wind by lying down to retain their warmth. But, since we can’t ask the cows if that’s why they are lying down, it’s just as possible that the cows are lying down just because they feel like lying down.
Cows aren’t the only animals that have a knack for predicting the future. Species with infrasound detection abilities are famous for leaving an area that is soon devastated by storms and earthquakes. Infrasound noise levels are far too low for puny human ears, but some species can detect thunder and earthquakes from far, far away. In 2004, when a tsunami laid waste to Thailand, huge herds of elephants all moved towards higher ground before the wave hit. Sharks are also capable of predicting storms because they can sense changes in oceanic pressure, and have been known to escape the dangers of hurricanes by swimming to deeper water hours before the hurricane hits.
And, of course, there’s the old canary in the coal mine, which can sense gas leaks before humans are affected. Next time you see a bunch of animals headed in one direction, you may want to consider taking their lead!