Why are scientists drawing eyes on cows' asses?

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In Botswana, conservation scientists from the University of New South Wales are painting eyes on the rear ends of cattle in an effort to deter lions from eating them. As the lions' protected habitats shrink, they move closer to human settlements. In Botswana, the lions attack the livestock that the subsistence farmers count on. That leads the farmers to kill the African lions, further endangering the species.

(UNSW conservation biologist Neil Jordan’s idea of painting eyes onto cattle rumps came about after two lionesses were killed near the village in Botswana where he was based. While watching a lion hunt an impala, he noticed something interesting: “Lions are ambush hunters, so they creep up on their prey, get close and jump on them unseen. But in this case, the impala noticed the lion. And when the lion realised it had been spotted, it gave up on the hunt,” he says.

In nature, being ‘seen’ can deter predation. For example, patterns resembling eyes on butterfly wings are known to deter birds. In India, woodcutters in the forest have long worn masks on the back of their heads to ward-off man-eating tigers.

Jordan’s idea was to “hijack this mechanism” of psychological trickery. Last year, he collaborated with the BPCT and a local farmer to trial the innovative strategy, which he’s dubbed “iCow”.

"Eye-opening conservation strategy could save African lions" (UNSW) Read the rest

Orphaned seal rescued from the cows "hassling it"

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Curious cows gathered around a lost seal pup led rescuers to find the orphaned, 5-day-old mammal, reports BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

We had an unusual visitor to the RSPB Lincolnshire offices today. One of our regular visitors spotted some of the cows on the saltmarsh behaving strangely. Upon investigation it seems they'd found a lone seal pup and were hassling it. With the mother nowhere in sight, and for its own safety, we had to take the pup away. We then called Natureland Seal Sanctuary in Skegness, who came to take it away and look after it.

She's been named Celebration, and is being rehabilitated at Skegness Natureland And Seal Sanctuary before being released back to the wild.

[via Arbroath.] Read the rest

Blosom, the World's Tallest Cow, RIP

Blosom, the world's tallest cow at 6'2" from hoof to withers, died in May at 13-years-old, according to Guinness World Records. Watch a touching tribute video below. Read the rest

This is what cows look like when you blow dry them

These girls got their hair did. Read the rest

Milky The Marvelous Milking Cow toy (1977)

In artist Attaboy's latest episode of "They Actually Made That!?," he demonstrates the wonder of Milky The Marvelous Milking Cow, a fine 1977 toy that was born from a licensing agreement between Kenner Toys and General Foods. Below, the original Milky television commercial in full. Read the rest

Meet Nastygirl, Germany's most beautiful cow

A doe-eyed look would not have won over judges at a contest in Germany this week: it was for cows only. The bovine beauties, 250 of them, even had their own hairdressers at the annual German Holstein Show in Oldenburg: "That way one can display the veins better," said stylist Astrid Ostkämper. There's more from Spiegel. Read the rest

Aralac: The "wool" made from milk

Yesterday, Cory posted a vintage ad for boys' hats and accessories, which included a small selection of ties made from something called "Aralac". I didn't think much of it, until I noticed J. Brad Hicks' comment pointing out that Aralac was a synthetic wool made from cheese. Which was not a joke.

Seriously. It'll make more sense once you understand how the stuff was actually made.

Think about it this way: Wool (the actual kind, that comes from sheep) is a protein. So is casein, which is found in milk. Making Aralac is basically about getting the protein casein to behave like the protein wool. In 1937, Time magazine described how the process worked:

Having practically the same chemical composition as wool, it is made by mixing acid with skim milk. This extracts the casein, which looks like pot cheese. Evaporated to crystals, it is pulverized and dissolved into a molasses consistency, then forced through spinnerets like macaroni, passed through a hardening chemical bath, cut into fibres of any desired length. From 100 pounds of skim milk come 3.7 pounds of casein which converts to the same weight of lanital. [Aralac was also called Lanital.]

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Cow rescued

Firefighters in England rescued a cow after it got stuck in a tree. The cow was described as "reasonably happy" following its ordeal. Read the rest

Cow Week: Bull gores man, follows him until certain he is dead

Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks. Turns out, cows kill more people every year than sharks do. Each day, I will post about a cow-related death, and add to it some information about the bigger picture.

Some cow-related deaths are accidental, or at least understandable. When humans and animals live and work in close proximity, it's not surprising that humans sometimes do things that startle or scare the animals. And when 500-pound animals are scared, bad things can happen.

Other times, though, it really seems like the cows are out to get us. Take this story, related in the July 31st issue of The Times of India. Bhoop Narayan Prajapati, a 65-year-old resident of Deori Township in the Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh, was gored by a bull and later died of his wounds. But, the death turns out to be the culmination of a months-long feud between Prajapati and the bull, centered around Prajapati's attempts to get the bull to stop sitting in front of the door to his house.

Prajapati threw a cup of hot water at the bull one morning. The next day, the bull came back and gored him. But that wasn't quite enough.

Much to people's surprise, the bull reached the hospital following Prajapati. Deepak Chourasia, a town-dweller, said that when the mortal remains of the old man were being consigned to flames the bull again sprang a surprise by arriving at the crematorium.

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Cow sex halts traffic

This weekend, state police in Pennsylvania State Police reported that cows "having relations in the road" brought traffic to a standstill near Kittanning, PA. "The bull rebuffed any notion of interruptus and police had to summon Pennsylvania Farm Bureau personnel," writes Jon Schmitz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Photo via Sean Bonner) Read the rest

Can cows sense magnetism? The debate continues

In 2008, some scientists proposed that cows can sense magnetism and actually line up in fields along Earth's magnetic lines. It's the sort of paper that everybody in the media wants to talk about for, roughly, two weeks ... and then never mention again.

But that's not how science works. One research paper does not an unquestionable fact make. Luckily Discover's Discoblog has been kind enough to update us on the current state of magnetic cow research. Shorter version: This issue is far from settled, with a second research team attempting to poke holes in the original study. Nevertheless, outside researchers say, the original findings still look strong. There is evidence that herds of cows stand along magnetic lines, and fail to stand along those lines in the presence of magnetic-field distorting high-voltage power lines. Whether this is absolutely the case and, if so, why, remains a bit of a mystery. Needs moar research.

... an analysis of Google Earth images by another team finds no such lining up. In a back-and-forth over the last year in scientific journals, the first team reanalyzed the second’s data and said that half of the images were useless, since they were near high-voltage power lines or contained hay bales or sheep instead of cows. Plus, the first team points out that the second team looked at single cows within herds instead of herds as a whole, and it’s pretty clear at this point that animals in herds and flocks aren’t operating as independent entities.

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