Rumor Flies

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Rumor Flies comically addresses the origins, evolution, and veracity of your favorite rumors, myths, and misconceptions. Tune in every week for more research, stories, and unsolicited commentary! Participation encouraged. 

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Snap Judgment #20: Moogenetic North

#980: When Grazing or Resting, cows tend to align their bodies with the magnetic north and south poles.

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Verdict: Likely

So this was based on a study that originally aimed to prove humans have internal compasses for setting up encampments, since naked mole rats tend to sleep in the southern end of their tiny underground mole homes. Using Google Earth, the researches viewed various tent encampments and checked how they were aligned. I think this may be a flawed study since many campers have actual campers and could be aligning their tents on much less of a hunch than body magnets. Apparently the researchers lost interest in the human subjects and instead ADD’d their way over to a few cow pastures and noticed something interesting: the cows showed a tendency to align themselves along north/south.

The study shifted to cows, resulting in observation (via Google Earth again) of over 8,500 cows in nearly 300 pastures. The trend was starting to be clear. The researches also shifted to another large mammal, the dear, and found the same tendencies in the animals. Many other animals use the earth’s magnetism for navigational purposes, but these are mainly of the flying variety (birds, bats, some insects). The researchers have not found a clear reason yet as to why cows and deer would have this ability for grazing and resting.

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Now, here is my theory: warmth. As many people have heard, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Many others also know that getting the sun in your eyes while driving sucks. I think that, magnetism or not, the simple reason for this alignment is a) to avoid getting the sun directly in their eyes and b) to increase the surface area of their bodies that catches the warmth of the sun. This is based off of no research, but if you know any cow researchers, please send them my way.

-Ryan