The Atlantic

The Secret Logic of Cows

A new mathematical model explores the complex reasons herd animals stay with a group or leave it.
Source: Stephane Mahe / Reuters

A cluster of cows browsing under the summer sun might look like they haven’t a care in the world. But the life of a herd animal is filled with trade-offs and decisions. Although they seem interchangeable, each one is an individual with its own particular desires. If a cow isn’t finished eating or lying down digesting by the time the herd picks up and moves, it may have to go along anyway.

There are benefits to staying together, in that has shown that cows that are made to move more frequently than they’d like grow more slowly, perhaps from the stress of not being able to follow their desires. There is a cost to not doing as one pleases.

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