Saturday, 15 November 2008

Can we Navigate by Cows rather than by using Magnetic Compass or GPS?

How can we navigate by using the positions of cows?

Photo source:

Cows behave as magnetic compass needles as they align their bodies in a north-south direction.

Cows have been valued and considered sacred in most human cultures as long as humans have been around.Cows have been valued and considered sacred in most human cultures as long as humans have been around.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons

  • In the Eddas, the myth of Iceland written between the 8th and 13th centuries, Audhumla ("Without Impurity") created humankind by licking the salt and hoar frost on ice blocks in three days. 
  • In Hinduism, the cow is considered the mother of gods. Kamadhenu, the sacred cow in ancient India, is the cow, which grants all wishes and desires. 
  • In ancient Egypt, there were many cow deities like Hathor, the Milky way, Nut, the sky goddess, Mehueret, the Flood and Bata, the goddess of fertility. 
  • The Maasai people in east Africa claim that all cattle in the world belong to them. With an average of 14-19 head of cattle per person, the Maasai are one of the wealthiest cattle-owning peoples in Africa. "I hope your cattle are well", the Maasai greet each other.

Animals Considered as Machines by Science, Paradoxically

Even Charles Darwin, the father of evolution theory considered animal intelligence to be a worthy field of study. He found that even earthworms are cognitive beings, as they need to make judgments about the kinds of leafy matter they use to block their tunnels. 

Photo source:

In the early 20th century, behaviourism regarded animals as machines and considered all field observations of animal cognition as anecdotes tinged with anthropomorphism. Since then, animals are not considered by scientists to have cognitive functions, which most pet owners totally disagree with.

Recently, serious researchers like Sabine Begall, Jaroslav Červen, Julia Neef, Oldřich Vojtěch, and Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany researched animal magnetism. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they studied if large animals like cattle display the ability to perceive magnetic fields.

By studying thousands of images of grazing cows captured by Google Earth, and compensating for the fact that grazing animals orient themselves to minimize wind chill and maximize the warmth of the sun, they found that cows do have a tendency to act like compass needles.

Can we look at cows and tell where the magnetic north is?

Photo source:

Please continue using your compass or GPS. The study does, however, open new horizons for studying how magnetoreception affects animals in fields like applied ethology, which is animal husbandry, and animal welfare. The researchers also claim that birds and mole rats have magnetic particles of magnetite in their cornea.

The human eye and the brain also generate magnetic fields. Researchers R.A. Armstrong and B. Janday of the Biomagnetism Research Group, Department of Vision Sciences, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham have found that both the eye and the brain, when stimulated with some visual cues generate magnetic fields. These magnetic fields can then be measured with a magnetometer; a device which uses superconducting technology.

Photo source:
As the saying goes "All is not butter that comes from the cow" - Proverb.

Anti Cow Sentiments

Well, not everyone is cow-friendly. Some famous people have been very anti-cow.
  • "A mind of the caliber of mine cannot derive its nutriment from cows." George Bernard Shaw
  • "Sacred cows make the best hamburgers." Mark Twain
  • "Who was the first guy that look at a cow and said, "I think that I'll drink whatever comes out of those things when I squeeze them?" Bill Watterson
  • "The cow is nothing but a machine which makes grass fit for us people to eat." John McNulty


Andrew L said...

We really know very little about animals and how sopihisticated their senses are. This article shows that research can teach us so much. Is this why ancient cultures respected animals as deities?

John Mardo said...

Interesting post. There's beenmany researches on how cellphones affect the magnetic field of the humanbrian. One study says that they do another says they don't.