Ever Wonder How Cows Co-moo-nicate?
Humans aren’t the only species with a developed sense of language. Nearly all living things on earth, from plants to animals, have evolved to communicate with one another in some form. As one grad student at the University of Sydney has found in her research, cows “talk” to one another, expressing individual identity through their mooing, and maintain this throughout their lives. “Cows are gregarious, social animals,” says Ph.D. student Alexandra Green, who spent five months doing field work with a group of Holstein Friesian heifers, a breed of dairy cattle, to record and study variances in their voices. “In one sense, it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life and not just during mother-calf imprinting. But this is the first time we have been able to analyze voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait.” Reviewing 333 sound samples with a team of leading bio-acousticians in Italy and France, she says, “We found that cattle vocal individuality is relatively stable across different emotionally loaded farming contexts.” The future of farming, Green suggests, could involve using this knowledge to respond to the cows’ individual needs and even improve their overall welfare. How now, brown cow?