Old wives tales fact or fiction: does a field of cows lying down really mean it’s going to rain?

We've all seen it: suddenly all the cows in a field are huddled together in a tight group lying down. There are some that will swear that this is a sign: rain is on the way.

But how true is this, and if it is, why do cows do this?

There are many different theories that people have come up with about why cows would do this. These include the following:

  • Cows stomachs are sensitive to the changes in atmospheric pressure created by rainfall, and so they lie down to to take the pressure off
  • Cows can sense increasing moisture in the air. They therefore lie down so that the grass beneath them will be dry.
  • Cow legs absorb moisture quickly, so they can’t support the weight of the cow when humidity builds in the air. 

How scientific these theories are is unconfirmed!

A scientific study by the University of Arizona and North Missouri did once prove that cows lie down because the temperature of the air has an effect on their milk production. If they lie down when it’s cooler, a dry patch of grass keeps their stomach warm.

Sadly no studies have yet proven that cows do actually lie down because it’s about to rain, but this study shows that there is some correlation, proving that there is some truth to this tale.