Weather cows

This was the view from near my home today. Cows on Bidwell Ranch acting like a weather-vane…all pointed north, due to a strong south wind with stinging rain…and who needs stinging wind in your face?

Click for a hi-res image.

Saw it on my weather station at  www.bidwellranchcam.com and used my camera to get this photo from ground level. Everybody should have one of these ;-)

UPDATE: My assumption about cowvanes was incorrect. Willis Eschenbach advises:

As a reformed cowboy, I fear you’ve made a small error. You assume the cows are facing downwind because they don’t like the wind in their faces … but horses always stand the other way, facing the wind. It has to do with which way the hair runs on their bodies. Horses hair runs from the bow to the stern, and on cows it runs the other way. They both stand so their hair sheds the rain …

w.

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121 Responses to Weather cows

  1. MIke (UK) says:

    Get a page not found when I click that link.

    Clever cows!

  2. M.J. Snyder says:

    Back in the days when I was flying gliders we used to call these “leather covered wind socks!”

  3. pwl says:

    A mooving veined weather vane.

  4. pwl says:

    Link is broken.

  5. SteveSadlov says:

    Thankfully none flying in twisters. I wonder if any flew down in French Camp on Wednesday?

  6. Hoser says:

    Yes, and if my rear-end smelled like that, I’d point it into the shower too.

  7. peterhodges says:

    Over the hill from you in the Eastern Sierra, we got just over a foot of snow this morning . Expect another foot by tommorrow.

    Any skiers out there, it has been good the last few days, even better today and tommorrow!

  8. DJ says:

    Hope they’re only busy makin’ sour cream…they don’t look happy at all!!

  9. Skiphil says:

    Or they were living by the Monty Python principle (“Holy Grail”) that “I fart in your general direction”

    …..to show how they really feel about inclement weather.

  10. Dr. Dave says:

    Best of all they produce both fertilizer AND climate science.

  11. kakatoa says:

    Our Donkeys gave up trying to deal with the wind, snow and hail a few minutes ago and headed to the barn (2400 ft elevation east of Sac). It’s very soggy in my pastures (3.7″ of rain with this storm and counting).

  12. buzzjack says:

    mmmm….I’ll be enjoying one of their pals tonight in a churrascaria in Rio

  13. Gail Combs says:

    We use the “Goat-o-meter” If it is even misting the goats run for cover. The horse do like the cows and turn the tail to the wind.

  14. LeeHarvey says:

    My mom grew up on a farm – she swears that if the cows climb the hill, it means it’s going to rain. If they stay down low, fair weather is assured.

  15. Brian Adams says:

    Recall in “Huckleberry Finn” when huck was posing as a girl and being grilled by the country woman who suspected he was a boy in disguise? One of the questions she shot him was:

    “If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how many of them eats with their heads pointed the same direction?”

    “The whole fifteen, mum.”

  16. Only a Philistine would suggest that cows could replace weathermen. But perhaps…..just maybe…. the CAGW crowd could learn from their wisdom. On the other hand, maybe not.

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

  17. Interstellar Bill says:

    “You don’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows” – Bob Dylan, 1965

  18. Russ Hatch says:

    But the computer models all say they should be lying down facing South.

  19. Max Hugoson says:

    Anthony, this is one time I refuse to be COWED by your arguements. Obviously, with the studies of BOVINE BELCHING we can figure out that YOU, yes YOU are somehow responsible for a major part of GHG emissions.

    The only solution, to EAT the problem(s)!

  20. John says:

    Several years ago I had a friend that would predict the weather by where and how the cows were standing in a field along US 36 near Boulder, CO. He was usually pretty accurate with it.

  21. DJ says:

    …Btw, the rain you got a few hours ago has migrated over the Sierra, and is coming down as snow in Reno at 5,000ft as of 10:40am PST.. and it’s starting to stick!

    …. Bbtw…. There’s some “fact checker” going on at the Reno Gazette Journal debunking Christy’s Sierra snow trend, where he’s pitted against David Pierce of UCSD/Scripps. Don’t let Willis see this.

    http://www.rgj.com/section/blogs12?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&U=8a686c58-d08c-47e8-8216-d67b1e581e99&plckPostId=Blog:8a686c58-d08c-47e8-8216-d67b1e581e99Post:5ca3fc36-cadb-44c2-8e89-9438df79163f&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

  22. Brian Adams says:

    I have an old Army flight training manual from the 1930s, in which it discusses how to determine wind direction on the ground when no wind sock is present. One of the suggestions was to observe any livestock, as they would tend to face away from the wind. Another was to watch trees, grain fields, chimney smoke etc. Those were the good ol’ stick and rudder days of canvas and wood.

  23. Brewster says:

    Cows are naturally immune to boredom.

  24. TheGoodLocust says:

    At last a reliable wind proxy! The good folks at the IPCC can model historical wind patterns based on the direction of skeletal remains (with an additional fudge factor of course).

    No doubt such an amazing record would find our current wind patterns to be unprecedented in the Earth’s history.

  25. dwyoder says:

    The concensus is the wind is coming from the south.

  26. Crispin in Johannesburg says:

    Enron’s Cows, good for telling which way the wind is blowing:

    Capitalism:
    * You have two cows.
    * You sell one and buy a bull.
    * Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
    * You grow old, sell your herd, and retire on the proceeds.

    Enron Capitalism:
    * You have two cows.
    * You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
    * The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by your CFO who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company for a 50% profit.
    * The annual report says the company owns eight cows with a bank-guaranteed option on six more.

    Now you see why a company with $62 billion in assets declared bankruptcy.

  27. Willis Eschenbach says:

    As a reformed cowboy, I fear you’ve made a small error. You assume the cows are facing downwind because they don’t like the wind in their faces … but horses always stand the other way, facing the wind. It has to do with which way the hair runs on their bodies. Horses hair runs from the bow to the stern, and on cows it runs the other way. They both stand so their hair sheds the rain …

    w.

    REPLY: Ah, well I learned something new. Thanks – Anthony

  28. I see a blonde and a (blondie-faced) brunette can’t help but looking into the camera. – Fame at last!

  29. I suppose, Willis, that wrong-facing Equines and Bovines would also fluff up like a frizz hairdo, creating more drag. This may explain why horses like to run forwards. Cows, on the other hand, would be foofy after a bit of a jog.

  30. Brian Adams says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:47 am

    I have an old Army flight training manual from the 1930s, in which it discusses how to determine wind direction on the ground when no wind sock is present. One of the suggestions was to observe any livestock, as they would tend to face away from the wind. Another was to watch trees, grain fields, chimney smoke etc. Those were the good ol’ stick and rudder days of canvas and wood.

    In the early days of flight they also used out houses as compasses, They usually faced south. The modern equivalent are TV satellite dishes. If you are disoriented in a strange neighborhood you can figure out which way is south by looking for which way the satellite dishes are facing ( in the northern hemisphere).

    When storm chasing we often used the livestock to determine wind direction. Not only would the cattle face away from the wind, but eventually they will drift to the down wind corner of the pasture and cluster there. On the eastern plains of Colorado the ranchers often put a stock tank in the corner of the pasture a severe snow storm is likely to drive the cattle to. In blizzard conditions the cattle suffer from dehydration if they don’t have access to open water so the stock tank and a wind break there can save the herd in a sudden spring storm.

    Larry

  31. Brian Adams says:

    Willis, note that the “Huckleberry Finn” passage didn’t mention wind at all. Of course she relied on convention wisdom and not science, and therefore the question served its purpose to smoke Huck out.

  32. Bill Tuttle says:

    Max Hugoson says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:46 am
    Anthony, this is one time I refuse to be COWED by your arguements. Obviously, with the studies of BOVINE BELCHING we can figure out that YOU, yes YOU are somehow responsible for a major part of GHG emissions.

    Thereby placing good Mr. Watts on the horns of a dilemma.

    Have we milked this thread dry yet?

  33. klem says:

    “Horses hair runs from the bow to the stern, and on cows it runs the other way. They both stand so their hair sheds the rain …”

    When birds are not flying they stand facing the wind. When they turn the other way their feathers start to flap around, so they turn back and face the wind again.

  34. TANSTAAFL says:

    I have a beef with this post!

  35. Bill Tuttle says:

    Brian Adams says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:47 am
    I have an old Army flight training manual from the 1930s, in which it discusses how to determine wind direction on the ground when no wind sock is present. One of the suggestions was to observe any livestock, as they would tend to face away from the wind.

    In Vietnam, we’d watch the cattle egrets (aka, “buffalo birds”). When we were on short final into the LZ, they’d take off as a flock, and always into the wind. If they took off in all directions, it meant there was something moving on the ground that scared them, and we’d be in for a bad day…

  36. Pointman says:

    You know, cows are not as useless as most people think. “Fetchez La Vache”

    Pointman

  37. anna v says:

    Willis Eschenbach April 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

    I must have been a horse person in another incarnation,because my feelings as I looked at the picture were of shivering and feeling the rain going through my fur !

  38. Oh and by the way, is the temperature on that farm 46 °F or is it 46 °C? – I only ask as since the humidity is 89% and it should therefore follow that this constitutes a temporary presence of a lot more atmospheric GHGs than a miserable doubling of 0.039% of CO2.

    Only joking.

  39. Bob_L says:

    Tipping Point!

  40. MattC says:

    Weather Cows – Pffffff!

    This beast comes out when it is 25 degrees below zero
    It can rip your head off
    It can fly as high as a bird
    It can bite your face

    The Chicken Cow
    The Chicken Cow
    The Chicken Cow
    The Chicken Cow

    Rock on London
    Rock on Chicago
    Blockbuster Video – Wow. What a difference.

  41. David Larsen says:

    All we are is butts in the wind. Sounds like a song.

  42. Crispin in Johannesburg says:

    That cow story was a reminder about the company that financed global warming alarmism PR companies in the USA to drive up the value of natural gas by demonising the higher level of CO2 that emerges from coal fired power plants. Good job they went bankrupt! Phew! That was close! People actually were actually beginning to believe that crap. No one would fall for that ‘carbon argument’ bunk in this day in an age when science and rational debate rules to conscience of the world’s major decison-making bodies!

    Can you imagine it? Enron was actually bribing newspapers and journals to print articles claiming that natural gas was ‘cleaner’ than coal on the basis of having a lower CO2 content emerging from the combustion process. “Carbon is black, right?”

    Imagine what would have happened if they have been successful! Before long we would have had the EPA banning coal plants and Enron-like gas fracking companies making Swiss cheese out of the whole country! Through bribing, price fixing and cartels, electricity prices would be shooting up, millions of people would be plunged into energy poverty; the destitute elderly would freeze in winter and sweat to death in summer. But seriously, it would never have been successful. All kinds of scientific fraud would have been necessary to pull it off – getting faked ‘science’ published every month, running propaganda blog sites and fund Chicken-Little politicians of every stripe, compromise major publications, get editors to spike articles proving the contrary arguments – the whole ball of wax. Only a bunch as devious as Enron’s club of criminals could have even thought up such a scheme.

    Good job all that nonsense was averted. Can you imagine how much it would have cost to set things right again after a couple of decades of brainwashing?

    Hard to imagine anyone getting on the wrong side of that sort of that losing proposition because when it comes to issues of CO2 and climate, even a cow knows which way the wind is blowing.

  43. Jimbo says:

    Tom Nelson has a wicked sense.

    “Croatia: Children won’t know what apples, mandarins, pears, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and strawberries look like”
    April frost causes 120 million Euros damage to fruit – General News – Croatian Times
    http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2012/04/croatia-children-won-know-what-apples.html

  44. David A. Evans says:

    I did put this in T&N but the linkie on the right hasn’t been changed.

    Richard Norths EUReferendum has moved home to http://www.eureferendum.com/

    DaveE.

  45. @doctor Dave. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.

  46. Brian Adams says:

    Willis said: “I must have been a horse person in another incarnation,because my feelings as I looked at the picture were of shivering and feeling the rain going through my fur !”

    But they never complain. I appreciate that trait.

  47. Ally E. says:

    Anthony, despite living in a completely different country, the view from your house looks very similar to the view from mine, complete with cows.

    Thanks for that info, Willis. I did not know that difference between horse and cow hair growth patterns. That’s fascinating!

  48. PaulH says:

    I also like the good old Beaufort Scale for determining wind speed from easily observable phenomena:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale

  49. Pointman says:

    @Crispin in Johannesburg.

    It’s hard to believe, but there’s a lot of people in fuel poverty in the developed world nowadays. I kid you not.

    http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/the-sun-is-setting-on-solar-power-the-moneys-gone-and-nobodys-asking-any-questions/

    Pointman

  50. John Blake says:

    So, why does the grain of cows’ hair run aft-to-front, while horsehair goes front-to-stern? If speed’s the issue, what of cheetahs vs. water-buffalo? Darwin, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

  51. Fred from Canuckistan says:

    “Russ Hatch says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

    But the computer models all say they should be lying down facing South.+

    A NASA GISS computer model would say they are actually buffaloes. :)

  52. Sorry Anthony, but I have to take a small objection to your Update

    Far be it for me to disagree with Willis, but, it’s always been farming folk-lore, that all bovines (Cattle, Buffalo, Bison etc) prefer to stand facing North or South – independent of any prevailing weather – the wind would be a secondary factor.

    Nexttime you’re out, just have a look – the vast majority will be on this North/South alignment – some facing South, some facing North

    Even the BBC thinks so …http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7575459.stm

    Amazing, that “scientists” can “prove” what we Country-Folk have known for countless generations

    Andi

  53. larrygeiger says:

    Ospreys always turn the fish that they have in their talons so that it’s pointing forward. It appears that the bird knows a forward facing fish produces less wind drag! If you live or visit an area (Florida coasts) where there are Ospreys, watch for them carrying fish.

  54. Jenn Oates says:

    There certainly seem to be quite a few of us from the general Northern California area!

    [Including Anthony, Willis, dbstealey, Steven Mosher, Dr. Leif Svalgaard, Charles the #1 moderator, Alec Rawls, Tom Fuller... and apologies if I'm forgetting any others. ~dbs, mod.]

  55. philjourdan says:

    Anthony, I like your explanation better. If we can get a consensus here, we can call Willis a skeptic, and then banish him from posting in the peer reviewed cow journals! ;-)

  56. Pointman says:

    What an enjoyable thread. I much prefer to be a skeptic, because the alarmists all seem to have had the sense of humour bypass op. Saving the world is obviously a grim business.

    Pointman

  57. Chad Jessup says:

    Having been raised on a 25,000 acre cattle ranch, punched, branded, etc. a lot of doggies, buccarooed a lot, I will say that Willis is wrong. Both cattle and horses will “fanny up” to a hard wind regardless of direction of hair growth which also varies by species, but sometimes they will also face into a wind. Don’t ask me why, they just do it.

  58. Pamela Gray says:

    When we were kids, to show cattle, 4-H’ers washed and brushed them (and yes, the hair grew the other way compared to a horse). That’s it. Maybe a little saddle soap on the hooves. Showing them was a matter of working with your animal on a lead, and feeding them right so they looked as good on the hoof as off.

    If you want to view the udderly rediculous, see what high-end 4-H and professional cattle showers go through to get their animal ready to show these days. What might be in their arsenal? Several different kinds of spray, including spray cans of paint, adhesives, and glo-coat, and two kinds of clippers, three different brushes, the list goes on and on.

  59. Heggs says:

    Anytime I hear about cows, I always think of the following book
    http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/library/services/book_reviews/mccarthys_bar.htm
    The ‘part’ with the cow had me in stitches laughing.

  60. Crispin in Johannesburg says:

    @Pointman says:
    “It’s hard to believe, but there’s a lot of people in fuel poverty in the developed world nowadays. I kid you not.”

    I have lived in Africa for a total of 32 years and worked at least a little in 20 African countries. As you can imagine, I am ‘familiar with the problem’.

    Something that always stuck with me was learning in the ’70’s that poor people in Africa use tiny amounts of electricity (dry cell batteries) and they have always paid $50 per kWh for the privilege.

    This has always bothered me a lot. Batteries are not sold for a price related to their cost, they are sold for $50/kWh, decade after decade. It is my fevent hope that thermoelectric generators, and if the famous Dr Steve Garrett has his way, thermoacoustic generators, will light up the African night, driven by daytime-deployed simple solar devices or cooking fires.

    For anyone who wants to ‘do something’ with electric micro-power projects, please investigate the use of ‘dead’ cellphone batteries. A battery that will no linger power a phone can run an HE-LED light for a few hours a night for a month on a single charge. In one Central American project they are charged at school and the students are able to study at night for a couple of hours. It is a great idea, cheap, develops local skills and helps those who want to help themselves.

  61. MarciaF says:

    If they have a cowlick do they spin in the wind?

  62. JC says:

    Percentage of cows hunkered down is correlated to probability of rain. True fact. And, LarryG, we’ve got ospreys here in Texas, in Downtown Houston, no less.

  63. Pamela Gray says:

    This country girl still has her cowlick (one side of my bangs stands straight up) and no I don’t spin in the wind. But a hard wind can knock me over, since I ain’t very big.

  64. Jurgen says:

    Air & water…
    The cows tell us the wind goes from right to left on the image, the grass also bends to the left. But can you also tell the direction the water is streaming? Did study the water flow for a while, the shapes, the lay-out… It gives me the feeling from left to right, but then the erosion in the bank looks like water flowing there from right to left… I have no real clue. Can anybody tell from the image?
    If the site is near Chico Calif. you would expect the slope going down to the south so to the right on the picture, but I am wondering if there are clues in the picture itself…

  65. Pamela Gray says:

    I can tell you true that weather gets worse when one lone girl on a tractor tries to herd 40 cow units out of CRP grazing by herself. It hailed that day (Thanksgiving day) and blew my black felt cowboy hat off my head and threw it into the salt lick circle where it got stomped, soiled, and chewed on. But I got the cows out and the gate put back up. Never been that cold in all my life.

  66. RockyRoad says:

    Bountiful bovine buffoonery…

    (But it does give me an idea of what’s for dinner.)

  67. RockyRoad says:

    MarciaF says:
    April 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    If they have a cowlick do they spin in the wind?

    Oh no–cowlicks are mostly found on big blocks of salt set out for the herd.

  68. Mike Wryley says:

    Actually, on most cows the hair runs from dorsal to belly.
    I suspect a cow in stinging rain rotates a bit as she has the choice of getting it in the face, on her lady parts and rear, or either side which have much more area to sting. If it gets bad enough, they will walk or run downwind until they run into an obstacle.

  69. spangled drongo says:

    Cows, conversely, also graze into the breeze on hot days to keep cool. As a drover turned sailor and participating in a national sailing championship on an inland lake, in light/variable winds, I was able to gain advantage by watching which way the cows were pointing.

  70. Pointman says:

    Whichever way a cow stands, in my experience, it’ll always try and stand on one of your feet. It’s a bit like a horse in that way. I’m sure there’s a scientific conclusion to be drawn from that but I’m blowed if I can make it out.

    Pointman

  71. RobRoy says:

    I love hamburgers. ( Hot though.)

  72. Shawn says:

    When I was a kid Dad and his buddy would sometimes take us fishing down to Dale Hollow. His buddy said that cows would lay (lie?) down when it was going to rain. For years aferward if we passed a field where some of cows were laying down the standing joke was, “50% chance of rain”.

  73. Cattle also can be used as lightning detectors. If all the cattle are laying down with their feet in the air lightning is probably present.

    Larry

  74. Gail Combs says:

    Chad Jessup says:
    April 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Having been raised on a 25,000 acre cattle ranch, punched, branded, etc. a lot of doggies, buccarooed a lot, I will say that Willis is wrong. Both cattle and horses will “fanny up” to a hard wind regardless of direction of hair growth which also varies by species, but sometimes they will also face into a wind. Don’t ask me why, they just do it.
    _________________________________
    I notice my ponies face into the wind when the whether is nice (and/or the flies are out) but they fanny into the wind in miserable cold wet weather.

  75. Len says:

    Well, just as there is more to climate than average temperatures, there is more to the direction cows stand than the wind.
    Animals spend a lot of time in thermal regulation. Notice cows and horses (deer ect. too) standing broadside to the sun to warm up. Cows and horses also have a hard time with insects, and a little breeze helps keep them away from their face and tails help at the other end. The top of hills or ridges are usually exposed to more wind and breezes so you will see cows chewing their cud on the top of hills and ridges in fly season, but in lower lands with cover when its cold. Also, where they go and which way they stand also sometimes depends upon what they are grazing and how steep the land is.

    It would help if CAGW “scientists” would look at climate in its whole than just temperture. Perhaps they should have a few field trips a year to watch cows.

  76. PaulID says:

    they would make better weather predictions than any of the team we need to get them on the government payroll A.S.A.P.

  77. Smokey says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    April 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    “This country girl still has her cowlick (one side of my bangs stands straight up)…”

    That brings to mind There’s Something About Mary

    Another factoid: cows need water in winter but bison don’t, because bison eat snow.

  78. Pamela Gray says:

    Oh but PaulID, they already are on the payroll. Wolf food.

  79. Pwildfire says:

    I don’t know why any of them face the way they do, but they do so regardless of whether the wind is wet or dry.

    Buffalo face the wind, and out-survive cattle in blizzards.

  80. Mr Lynn says:

    I used to tell the kids about the sidewinder cows on the mountains, which had the legs on one side shorter than on the other so they could wind their way up the hill, without falling over.

    Kind of a disadvantage, as they never could turn around.

    Don’t think the kids believed me, though.

    /Mr Lynn

  81. curly says:

    A little off topic, but bovine, equine and other rural critters do eat it…

    For the longest time, my kids believe that those large, cylindrical bales of hay wrapped in white plastic were the mature, fully-grown marshmallows on marshmallow farms. Can’t imagine why they believed that.

    And Pointman, I’ve observed the same about alarmist humorectomies. But then it is very hard, grim work getting someone to believe something, especially when that something is so obviously uncertain or wrong. Probably frustrating, too. Except for the true believers. But history is full of examples of the damage they’ve done.

  82. skeptical citizen says:

    My horse when I haul him in the stock trailer will always turn his rump to the wind. the cattle when hauled will move around the whole trip. With my cattle there are always some standing and some lying down. And they are headed every which way. However they are mixed breeds with a lot of dairy breed influence. You cant drive dairy cattle efficently. The lead boss cow(They establish a pecking order) will start through a gate then stop and turn and face the others daring them to try and get past. However get a bucket of feed preferably range cubes and throw a few out and you will have a stampede following you. However Deer will always travel into the wind so as to smell for danger. During the rut bucks travel into the wind to catch the scent of the does.

  83. David Ball says:

    CAR !!

    h/t the far side

  84. Judy F. says:

    Don’t you know that cows are much more complex than just being weathervanes? You don’t even need a weatherman if you have a cow. You only need to look out the window, because:

    If a cow is wet, it is raining.
    If a cow is white, it is snowing.
    If a cow casts a shadow, it is sunny.
    If a cow is bouncing, there is an earthquake.
    If a cow is underwater there is a flood.
    If a cow has it’s tail in the air, it is windy.
    If you can’t see your cow it is foggy.
    If your cow is gone, there has been a tornado.

    At least that’s for cows in Colorado. Calilfornia cows might be different.

  85. Chad Jessup says:

    Good point Gail. After selecting post comment, I had a whoops moment where I realized that I didn’t plug in “cold” at the relevant and necessary point. Thanks.

  86. Maureen S says:

    In the winter my cows up here in Northern BC wake up and turn so the sun hits them full on their sides. It was freaky the first time I saw them early one winter morning, all facing south as in some pagan ritual. Cows are great!

  87. Rob Potter says:

    Pointman, my wife milked cows by hand as a teenager and now has very few good words to say about them based – in part – on the ” foot-stomping” you mentioned.

    As a townie, all this is beyond me, but she reckons all the cows, sheep and horses she knows find shelter in bad weather so they would never be able to use them as weather vanes. Of course, mountain pastures in Norway always have shelter in terms of rocks and trees – makes the sheep very hard to find in the autumn!

  88. Pointman says:

    @Curly. Do you mind if I steal the humourectomy word? Too good to languish as a mere comment.

    Pointman

  89. RockyRoad says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    April 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Oh but PaulID, they already are on the payroll. Wolf food.

    On a brighter side, results are in for Idaho’s first wolf hunt. It appears the wolf population was thinned by 50%. All I can say is: “Outstanding!”

    (Another year and we won’t be bothered with those nasty beef- and mutton-killing machines at all!)

  90. Bill Tuttle says:

    Fred from Canuckistan says:
    April 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm
    A NASA GISS computer model would say they are actually buffaloes.
    :)

    A NASA/GISS computer model would say that the picture was taken at the ssite of a now-melted Himalayan glacer, and they’re yaks that’ve lost their hair because of CAGW…

  91. Bill Tuttle says:

    Jurgen says:
    April 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm
    But can you also tell the direction the water is streaming? Did study the water flow for a while, the shapes, the lay-out… It gives me the feeling from left to right, but then the erosion in the bank looks like water flowing there from right to left… I have no real clue. Can anybody tell from the image?

    Yup — you nailed it with the erosion in the bank, which is a feeder gully into the stream. The flow is from right to left, otherwise the eastern spur of the gully (the one closer to the camera) would be convex, and the flat bank between the spur and the main stream would be more eroded to the north.

  92. Jeff Alberts says:

    My wife is convinced that when cows lay down that means it’s going to rain within a few days. She wasn’t raised on a farm, so I’m not sure where she came up with that. There are plenty of cows hereabouts, and I’ve been unable to find any pattern in their laying down-ness. I think it’s just because they feel like laying down.

  93. John F. Hultquist says:

    Jenn Oates says:
    April 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm
    There certainly seem to be quite a few of us from the general Northern California area!

    [Including Anthony, Willis, dbstealey, Steven Mosher, Dr. Leif Svalgaard, Charles the #1 moderator, Alec Rawls, Tom Fuller... and apologies if I'm forgetting any others. ~dbs, mod.]

    Thus raising a number of questions!

  94. Zeke says:

    I did not read all of the comments, so apologies if this has already been said, but here is an article about German researchers who have discovered a tendency in cows to align their bodies along a north-south axis.
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/of-cows-and-power-lines
    This magnetoreception in the cows is disrupted by power lines if they are within 5o meters.

    So these ladies here in the pictures are just doing their job, rain or shine (-:

  95. Lubos Motl says:

    The cows measured a wind direction but they also measure temperature. Who needs too much heat being absorbed by your body? There is one cow in the ensemble that is white at least from one side so that’s where the climate is warmer.

  96. Ed Zuiderwijk says:

    This is all right and well, but what really interests me most is: how do they taste.

  97. Blade says:

    Judy F. [April 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm] says:

    “Don’t you know that cows are much more complex than just being weathervanes? You don’t even need a weatherman if you have a cow. You only need to look out the window, because:

    If a cow is wet, it is raining.
    If a cow is white, it is snowing.
    If a cow casts a shadow, it is sunny.
    If a cow is bouncing, there is an earthquake.
    If a cow is underwater there is a flood.
    If a cow has it’s tail in the air, it is windy.
    If you can’t see your cow it is foggy.
    If your cow is gone, there has been a tornado.

    At least that’s for cows in Colorado. Calilfornia cows might be different.”

    ROTFLMAO! There’s the thread winner right there.

    PLEASE, no more entries or I’m gonna need a paramedic!

  98. P. Solar says:

    UPDATE: My assumption about cowvanes was incorrect. Willis Eschenbach advises:
    Submitted on 2012/04/13 at 11:17 am

    As a reformed cowboy, I fear you’ve made a small error. You assume the cows are facing downwind because they don’t like the wind in their faces … but horses always stand the other way, facing the wind. It has to do with which way the hair runs on their bodies. Horses hair runs from the bow to the stern, and on cows it runs the other way. They both stand so their hair sheds the rain …

    w.

    This just goes to show that cows are smarter than horses. If horses brushed their hair the other way, they would not need to get rain in their faces!

  99. R. de Haan says:

    Lubos Motl says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:31 pm
    “The cows measured a wind direction but they also measure temperature. Who needs too much heat being absorbed by your body? There is one cow in the ensemble that is white at least from one side so that’s where the climate is warmer.”

    Cows also measure wind speed.
    When white cow turns brown again, wind speeds are on the increase.
    Cows also measure the amount of snowfall.

    In the picture at this link for example the snow pack is half a cow thick.
    http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.highlandcattleworld.com/images/information_page.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.highlandcattleworld.com/information.html&usg=__KmbWbBX9jY-7DT43J47Lg3MlrhM=&h=300&w=400&sz=19&hl=en&start=41&zoom=1&tbnid=oWfcjuVaalnz6M:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&ei=SFGJT_b0CsrHswbMnKznCw&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcows%2Bin%2Bdeep%2Bsnow%26start%3D21%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26gbv%3D2%26tbm%3Disch&itbs=1

    Cows make great sustainable weather stations that can be recycled 100%,

    Now sell the concept to the Greens so they stop worrying about cow farts.

  100. Crispin in Johannesburg says:

    Only a cow-ard would fail to finish with:

    TRADITIONAL ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You sell one and buy a bull.
    Your herd multiplies and the economy grows.
    You retire on the income but continue making a popular specialty yogurt with local berries to keep you occupied.

    INDIAN ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You worship them.

    PAKISTAN ECONOMICS
    You don’t have any cows.
    You claim all Indian cows belong to you.
    You ask the US for financial aid, China for military aid, British for warplanes, Italy for machines, Germany for technology, French for submarines, Switzerland for loans, Russia for drugs and Japan for equipment. You buy cows with all this then claim exploitation by the world.

    AMERICAN ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You profess surprise when the cow drops dead. You put the blame on some nation with cows & naturally that nation will be a danger to mankind.
    You start a war to save the world and grab the cows to pay for the weapons use and start a Cow Exchange trading milk futures.

    FRENCH ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You go on strike because you want three cows.

    GERMAN ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You reengineer them so that they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves. The milk is bland and sold as ‘vegetarian milk’.

    BRITISH ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    They are both mad cows.

    ITALIAN ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You don’t know where they are.
    You break for lunch.

    SWISS ECONOMICS
    You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.
    You charge others for storing them.

    JAPANESE ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You redesign them so that they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create cute cartoon cow images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

    RUSSIAN ECONOMICS
    you have two cows.
    You count them and learn you have five cows.
    You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
    You count them again and learn you have 17 cows.
    You give up counting and open another bottle of vodka.

    CHINESE ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You have 300 people milking them.
    You claim full employment, high bovine productivity and arrest anyone reporting any actual numbers.

    IRANIAN ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You don’t know economics.
    You choose one of them as the leader of your country and the other one as the president. That is not the same position, in Iran.

    ENRON/CLIMATE-SCARE ECONOMICS
    You have two cows.
    You sell three of them to your publicly listed company using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows applying a new clause in the Renewable Energy Act (cows are obviously self-renewing or they wouldn’t be producing milk).
    The milk rights of the six cows (but not the milking rights) are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by your CFO who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.

    The annual report is written by a Climate Scientist who uses a computer model to show the company owns, including correctly interpreted milk and milking rights, eight cows, with a preferential option on six more. He also reports that due to an earlier discrepancy, the original value of the first two cows has been adjusted downwards.

  101. John Whitman says:

    Willis, so if in springtime I drive past an un-enclosed New England bus stop during a chilling Arctic storm from the north I can expect the people waiting for the bus to be facing the direction that doesn’t mess up their hairdo? Or facing one way if they are wearing horsehair coats?

    John

  102. ozspeaksup says:

    sorry Willis,
    my horse always stand butt to the cold wind strong winds or rain.
    only on mild days does he face into it.
    and thats true wether he is rugged up or not.

  103. Luther Wu says:

    An engineer friend who had been transplanted from Wisconsin to Oklahoma said: “it’s impossible to get lost in Oklahoma, because all the trees point North.”

  104. Jurgen says:

    In Holland a lot of cows also. One day hiking in the country side (I am a townboy) I took a rest near a fence, all empty around. After a while I hear a soft sound behind me, and turning I see some fifty cows standing close and looking at me. There was intelligence in their eyes.
    Don’t underestimate them. In India they rule.

  105. Luther Wu says:

    Another thing about cows… as a teenager, I spent a summer in a beautiful Appalachian valley in
    Virginia. All of the slopes had very discernable rings around them where grazing cattle would
    move around and around the hill, gradually climbing, as cattle are known to follow the easiest
    path. I found the trails both strange and puzzling, since none of the slopes of my native home’s tall grass prairie had those terrace- like rings; cow trails all over the place for sure, but no rings.
    The tall grass in Osage county is the finest grazing in the world and there were certainly large herds grazing there and the steep slopes of many of the limestone- capped buttes would rival anything in Virginia, so why were these rings not seen at home?

    Now I know the answer…
    When I noticed the phenomenon in the late 60’s, those hills in Virginia had been grazed continuously for over 200 years, while back home, the prairie had been grazed by cattle for maybe 80 years, with the erosive effects having much less time to become apparent. Now, some 40+ years later, the buttes and hills of the western Osage prairie are showing the rings- not as well defined as those in Virginia, but they are now apparent.

    One might ask why the vast herds of bison didn’t didn’t produce the same effect during the preceding millenia…
    I would suggest that the bison weren’t confined and were free to go where they would. Another reason is the nature of bison versus cattle… a bison will go where he wants, regardless of difficulties getting there- as witness the strong fences necessary to contain them- so bison likely didn’t amiable graze around and around, but if he wanted to go up the hill, he just went.

  106. Hot under the collar says:

    I’m surprised at Anthony and Willis relying on cow computer modeling.

    Empirical evidence and the consensus of a rear review process proves beyond doubt that it doesn’t matter which way the cow is facing, the wind definitely emanates from the other end.

  107. Claude Harvey says:

    I have applied “sophisticated statistical techniques” to the problem and concluded that, no matter which direction they are pointed, all the cows are going to burn up and die. (Except coastal cows. They will be the first to go by drowning.) May as well just go ahead and eat those bovines with a clear conscience. Head ‘em up and move ‘em out!

  108. Steve Keohane says:

    I’ve never seen any herd animal face into a snow storm, not horses, cows, elk, deer. I’ve been seeing them for over sixty years and they haven’t changed. It would probably be a good way to pack your nostrils with snow. Just to confirm my memory, I searched for horse images in snow storms, all butt to the wind. Maybe horses will head into rain, but not snow.

  109. clipe says:

    “Minds me of a story they tell about Willy Feeley when he was a young fella. Willy was bashful, awful bashful. Well, one day he takes a heifer over to Graves’ bull. Ever’body was out but Elsie Graves, and Elsie wasn’t bashful at all. Willy, he stood there turnin’ red an’ he couldn’t even talk. Elsie says, ‘I know what you come for; the bull’s out in back a the barn.’ Well, they took the heifer out there an’ Willy an’ Elsie sat on the fence to watch. Purty soon Willy got feelin’ purty fly. Elsie looks over an’ says, like she don’t know, ‘What’s a matter, Willy?’ Willy’s so randy, he can’t hardly set still. ‘By God,’ he says, ‘by God, I wisht I was a-doin’ that!’ Elsie says, ‘Why not, WIlly? It’s your heifer.”
    ― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/heifer

  110. TomT says:

    Since moving to Florida I have become an amateur expert in seagulls, and my studies indicate that seagulls stand facing the wind, so as to not ruffle their feathers.

  111. u.k.(us) says:

    TomT says:
    April 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm
    Since moving to Florida I have become an amateur expert in seagulls, and my studies indicate that seagulls stand facing the wind, so as to not ruffle their feathers.
    ==========
    My guess, is that when facing the wind, all the gull needs to do is spread its wings and they produce lift from the wind. Probably the best position to be in when a hawk is bearing down on you.
    Just a guess :)

  112. MadCowDisease says:

    Anthony and Willis are both wrong.

    Prey animals face downwind as much as possible so they can see predators approaching from downwind and smell them coming from upwind.

    Birds all tend to face upwind because, just like an airplane, they take off into the wind.

  113. Tony Hansen says:

    And there I was thinking that the poor old things turned away from the wind to stop rain blowing into their ears. (Well its so damn hard to get water out of your ear with a hoof!!!!)

    Willis,
    I call BS on your explanation… fair dinkum… do you think maybe whoever told you that just
    might have been having a lend of you?
    Where I come from the rain mostly falls ‘down’, is it different in your part of the vworld :).
    I really can’t know about places I haven’t been.
    Best…

  114. H.R. says:

    Do the cows do a headstand when the rain is coming straight down? Inquiring minds want to know.

  115. johanna says:

    I love this thread. No wonder the cow reportedly jumped over the moon!

    From many years of watching so-called ‘seagulls’ (but that’s another topic), they do tend to stand facing into the wind. But having never systematically considered what they do when taking off, I will pay more attention in future. Of course, if a chip is in the offing, all bets are off. They will eviscerate their grandmothers, let alone face the wrong way, should a chip enter the equation.

    An important conclusion from this thread is that the behaviour and characteristics of cows, bison and horses are at least as reliable as the inputs to contemporary climate models, quite possibly more so. I refer in particular to the post above which pointed out the implications of cows which are white on one side and brown on the other.

    Food for thought, indeed.

  116. Tim Clark says:

    Pretty scenery. Does it ever rain enough to fill the creek?

  117. pk says:

    buffalo, at least the montana version, head into the wind and let it blow that heavy shoulder “fleece” down over their hindquarters.

    over the last century after terrible blizzards a number of herds of buffalo have been found in the upwind fence corner of a pasture alive where a like number of cows were at the downwind corner of the fence and frozen to death.

    once out in the plains both herds were at the intersection of the same four fences, cows dead buffalo alive.
    C

  118. pk says:

    luther W:
    In hamilton montana it was the custom to bareback ride buffalo at the county fair rodeo.

    the first year they tried it the first bull out of the chute dusted the cowboy off in a couple of seconds and promptly jumped over a six foot fence. the riders and herders were caught unaware and it took a couple of weeks to retrieve that bad boy.

    the second year they tried it with ten foot fences, mounted riders….. as it turned out the whole six yards. that bull just plain rammed through the fence and headed for corvallis, a small town about 4 miles to the east where he was caught by men on very tired horses that evening.

    the third year one of the bulls jumped the ten foot fence, the rider bailed out about 29 feet before that happened, it took thirty herders on foot, 15 horsemen, the ravalli county sherrifs mounted possee (24 riders with horses ready in trailers) a helicopter and thirty six hours to capture that fellow, and he made it 3/4 of the way to missoula.

    we moved away that fall and i never heard what happened after that.

    i guess that buffalo just don’t like to be ridden although there were indian stories and stove top tails that some indians rode them in the 1820’s

    C

  119. philjourdan says:

    @pk says: April 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

    I heard also that a bison (buffalo) will move the snow with his beard to graze during a snow storm, while a steer (cow) will stand and starve to death with food mere inches below him.

    Being a city boy, I always found that a bit amazing, but have never ventured out to verify that behavior.

  120. phaedrus says:

    Obviously, all Califronia cattle face left.

  121. Shawn says:

    All this talk of cows and weather predictions got me curious about something. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I checked out some old emails on the UV server. Lo and behold, I discovered that the lesser known but very first “Hockey Stick” wasn’t based on tree rings at all! It seems a certain someone studied a series of preserved hoof prints. Not being a farm boy, he could only tell which direction they faced by noting the location of any assoiated cow pies. After discarding those that didn’t have a cow pie, he determined the direction of the remainder. Assuming any wind coming from the direction of Tennessee would be warmer (for some unknown reason), he plotted his proxies and the very first “Hockey Stick” was born! But … alas … someone saw his raw data and it was discovered that he wasn’t looking at cow prints and cow pies at all but rather bull prints and bull … scat. But he liked the “Hockey Stick”! Rather than admit it what it was really based on, he looked for something else to plot that would produce the same results as the original bull-based plot. When he noticed the first rise of his stick seemed to correspond to Al Gore’s winning his first election, he turned to something wooden. This is how the second but better known “Hockey Stick” was born. And now you know the rest of the story!

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