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Cows Choose Wise Leaders

Although most humans don’t think of cows as intelligent, they truly are. Almost any animal is as intelligent as it needs to be to survive in nature, but domesticated animals are different. Through the process of domesticating them, we’ve bred them to serve our needs, and thus altered and sometimes eradicated abilities that would help them survive in the wild.

But cows have retained more intelligence and sophistication than we commonly believe they possess, and nowhere is that more apparent than their methods of choosing their leaders.

Bertrand Dumont, a researcher at the national institute of agricultural research in Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France, studied a group of grazing heifers and discovered some amazingly wise traits in cows.

And they seem to trump us humans in our determination to prove that “might makes right.”

In the cow world, bullies don’t win the ultimate prize because domination does not equate success. The strongest animal does not become the leader of the herd. In fact, the leader is usually the oldest animal. This indicates that choice of the herd leader is based on the fact that the lead cow has accrued the most experience in being a cow.

In his research, Dumont studied a group of cows from the same farm that had been grazing together since they were young. Almost 50% of the time, one cow would lead the rest to a new feeding site. This one cow was also observed more frequently than the group average as being the very first animal in general grazing activities.

Dumont explained that "it's adaptive to the animals to follow successful leaders, as this will improve their own food research success."

In the bovine hierarchy, better social skills, experience, assurance, curiosity and smarts are more desirable than selfishness, bulk and brute strength.

To put it more succinctly, in a cow’s world, brains win over brawn, every time.

We humans could learn a great deal from cows…if only we didn’t find them so “bovine.”

Source: Applied Animal Behaviour Science

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