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Cattle have natural compass

Worshipped in India by Hindus for ages because of religious beliefs, cows, scientists have discovered can be path-finders for lost travellers. Vijay Dutt reports.

world Updated: Aug 26, 2008 23:06 IST
Vijay Dutt

Worshipped in India by Hindus for ages because of religious beliefs, cows, scientists have discovered can be path-finders for lost travellers.

Using Good Earth, Dr Sabine Begall from the University of Dulsburg-Essen, Germany, monitored thousands of cows at locations in India apart from Britain and the US to conclude that herds of cows tend to face north. They do so after aligning themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field.

The finding based on satellite images has astonished farmers and animal behaviourists, said a report in the Mail. The cows are already known to predict rains hours in advance, but their ability to point towards north, that is navigational talent, was so far unknown.

Scientists believe that this amazing ability of cows is the relic of the times when the wild ancestors of the present domesticated cattle used inbuilt compasses to chart their way across Africa, Asia and Europe, when migrating long distances.

The scientists ruled out weather and the position of the Sun as an explanation for this ability of cows. They concluded this on the fact that the direction of the wind and sunlight varied in different locations. “We conclude that the magnetic field is the only common factor responsible for the observed alignment,” said scientists.