Madison (WKOW) -- A new university study from German and Czech researchers says cows have a built-in compass.
The researchers looked at more than 85 hundred cows in more than 300 pastures and found that two-thirds instinctively face north and south.
Joe LaBarbera checks out that research in Cambridge.
They stand in a pasture or a pen.
They chew their cud.
They eat and do that other thing after they eat.
Then they walk in it.
It's a lot of standing around.
Apparently European researchers say a great deal of that standing around is done facing north and south because of some kind of built in thing called passive alignment.
Passive alginment is the ability for animals magnetically to line up north and south.
And it has been reporterd in honey bees and termites.
The big question is, do cows have that same ability?
Tina Hinchley of Hinchley's Dairy Farm Tours says, "I think cows do what they want to do because it feels good."
She added, "working with cows for as many years as I have, I know that they're smart enough to go where it's comfortable. Their body temperature's 102 and they're wearing black leather coats."
Well, I came up with a brilliant idea.
Let's ask the cows.
But, they're not talking.
And I'm not sure what the sheep are saying.
Apparently cows prefer chewing their cud to giving up answers.
Pigs, llamas, nobody's sharing the passive alignment north south secret.
Hinchley said, "well when I got that email, I thought it was kind of hokey. So I ran out to the shed to look at our aerial photgraph and sure enough two thirds of them are north and south."
But she stands firm on her belief these cows stand where they want to stand.
If they're facing north and south it's simply by chance.
She does have one other theory.
"Too much grant money for studying magnetic fields?" she asked.
So what do we know from our study?
Cows are nosey, they stand where they want to and the research may not be all it's cracked up to be.
In other words -- it might just be a bunch of baloney.
The researchers used satellite imagery to observe many of the cows they studied.
They admit that made it difficult to tell the back end of the cow from the front end, so they really weren't sure which direction those cows were really facing.