Cattle Align Bodies North to South With Compass Quality


Out for a vigorous hike and lose your way? No need to reach for that compass; just be on the lookout for deer or cattle instead.

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A team of scientists reporting in Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences has used the computer program Google Earth to confirm a strange suspicion—that cattle tend to align their bodies north-to-south.

Mole rats ... use the earth’s magnetic field to assist them with navigation.

The researchers, led by the University of Duisburg-Essen’s Sabine Begall, started with Begall’s research into the magnetic sense of mole rats. Mole rats, along with many species of birds, some species of fish, and bats, use the earth’s magnetic field to assist them with navigation—enabling great feats of high-accuracy migration in many species.

If mole rats have this capability, then what of larger animals? Begall wondered. To answer her question, she led her team in a survey of Google Earth images of more than 8,000 cattle in more than 300 pastures worldwide. The photographs were not of high enough resolution to allow the team to distinguish the cows’ heads from their rears; even so, the team could tell that the animals tended toward a north–south alignment.

The team then examined the body positions of nearly 3,000 wild deer in 277 locations in the Czech Republic. Among the deer, the majority were facing northward, with about a third facing southward—echoing the north–south orientation of the cattle.

Having ruled out the influence of sun position or wind direction as major causes of such an orientation, the team hypothesized that, at least in the case of the deer, such an orientation may have an as-yet-unknown anti-predator motivation.

Sensory biologist John Phillips of Virginia Tech University commented that the new study may confirm that a sixth, magnetic sense may be “virtually ubiquitous in the animal kingdom.”

Indeed, as we saw in item #4 above, scientists are continually astonished at the sensory abilities God designed in many creatures. Obviously much more research is needed to confirm the team’s satellite-based study, and there could be factors other than a magnetic sense at play that haven’t been thought of.

Even so, given that so many of God’s creatures have an internal compass, perhaps you should ask yourself: which way are you facing right now, and why?

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