Keith Weller
You probably won't be seeing this dairy cow on the Weather Channel anytime soon.
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updated 8/20/2012 3:19:37 PM ET 2012-08-20T19:19:37

How can you accurately predict if it’s going to rain? Just check a cow pasture. If all the cows are lying down, a rainstorm is coming — or so this old wives’ tale claims.

Believers have schemed up several different explanations for why our bovine friends would hit the ground in anticipation of a storm, and many of them sound equally plausible. The simplest is that cows can sense increasing air moisture and will plop down to preserve a dry patch of grass. Another theory states that cows lie down to ease their stomachs, which are supposedly sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure brought on by rainfall.

The most complicated explanation suggests that cow legs are micro-porous structures that rapidly absorb moisture. As the relative humidity builds from an oncoming downpour, the cow’s legs will absorb more and more moisture from the air, softening until they can no longer support the weight of the cow.

But is there any weight behind this tale? Not likely – cows lie down for many reasons, and there’s no scientific evidence that rain is one of them. As the Farmer’s Almanac says, “Cows lying down in a field more often means they’re chewing their cud, rather than preparing for raindrops.” And just think: If weather predictions were made based on the actions of cows, the forecast would always be grim.

This story was provided by  Life's Little Mysteries,  a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life's Little Mysteries @llmysteries.  We're also on  Facebook  and Google+.

© 2012 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.

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