This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Why yes, this is a lollypop. Wanna lick? SYKE!

Oh cow, you so goofy.

Cattle. Cows. Bovines. Doggies. (as in, git along little...).

Cows have played an important role in human history. They were first domesticated from wild auroch somewhere near Turkey, about 11,000 years ago. (The auroch was a large, cow like creature that was mean. They were domesticated twice, once in the Eurasia area, and once on the Indian subcontinent. The last auroch died in the 17th century, probably in Poland).

Those who first domesticated the cow had a herd of about 80 cows. (according to genetic diversity found when the cow genome was mapped). From those 80 cows, there are almost 1.5 billion cattle today.

They became a major source of meat, clothing, building supplies and many other things to our neolithic ancestors. Cows and sheep are what allowed us to settle down and stop our wandering ways and start civilization.


But, cows are weird. And, I don't mean weird as in they have long tongues, or they have four stomaches.

No, they are weird because, on for two examples of why cows are weird.


Cows eat. A lot. In fact, if you drive by a field full of cattle, they are most likely eating or sleeping. They are big animals, so they have to eat a lot. But something about the way they eat eluded notice for thousands of years.

We knew they, like most ruminants, have a multi-chambered stomach. This is because of the food they eat. (cellulose is indigestible, so they have to chew it, swallow it, digest it, hork it up, chew it some more, digest it again, rinse, repeat until they can get all the nutrients from it.) But, it wasn't until 2008 when two researchers in Germany used a new tool, Google Earth, to study cattle that they noticed something strange.


And, it wasn't just one herd. They zoomed in on 8,000 herds of cattle, all over the world, before announcing their discovery.

And what was that?

For the most part, cows align themselves North-South when they eat.

Occasionally you will see the oddball doing their own thing, but research has attributed the non north-south feeding behavior to the fact that the cows move while grazing. If they are stationary, they are most likely aligned along a north-south axis.


How? That's easy. Almost every animal, (except humans, of course), have very accurate internal compasses. They can sense the Earths magnetic field, and that makes aligning easy.

Why? Who knows. Seriously, researchers have a few speculations, but nothing conclusive.


One of the leading theories is that north-south alignment makes the blood flow better because the iron in the blood follows the magnetic flow better. Some people swear by the fact that they sleep better with their head north and feet south. (I call bs on that, though. I sleep like crap no matter the direction I'm oriented)

So now, if you get lost, forget looking for moss on the north side of the tree, (it's lichen, not moss that does that anyway. Moss grows wherever it pleases), just find a herd of grazing cattle, and you'll know what way is north.


So. That was a pretty weird thing to learn about cows, right?

Well, get ready to learn something that makes that first fact seem normal.

Cows are emo.

No, not really. They don't write bad poetry.

But they do get depressed.

In August of 2009, in the Swiss Alps, over the corse of 3 days, 28 cows and bulls walked off a cliff, falling to their deaths.


Now, an alpine cow falling off a cliff isn't exactly rare. They do lose their footing sometimes. But, they are born and raised in the alps. And they learn as calves to avoid cliffs. And never had anyone heard of so many cows falling off a cliff in such a short period. And not only that, they all walked off the same spot. Their corpses piled up for all to see.

Did I say it was unheard of?

Well, not really. Two weeks earlier, in California, more than 30 cattle walked off a cliff and fell about 50 feet into the Fresno river, where they all died.


No one can explain the causes for sure. In the case of the Swiss 'suicides', there were severe thunderstorms 2 days before the cows started jumping, and some think that may have something to do with it.

But the fact remains, we have two mass cow suicides, two weeks apart, on different continents, that can't be explained.


Now, that's weird, right? I mean, don't the commercials say California is the home of happy cows?

Anyway, beware cows. They are mean.