Farm Animal Intelligence: How Smart Are Your Cows?

These tidbits about farm animal intelligence — goats that do math, cows with social skills and chickens that play tic-tac-toe — may surprise you. Do you have Einstein on your farm?

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    Cows interact with one another in socially complex ways, developing friendships, forming social hierarchies and even holding grudges.
    Marilyn Barbone
  • horsegirl-foto
    Horses make great pets because they are loyal to their owners and have a great sense of humor.
    Joann Brasington - Fotolia
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    While lambs and sheep are animals well worth raising, they may not be as interactive as other barnyard animals.
    Carol Wingert
  • goats-foto
    Everyone knows goats are barnyard acrobats and geometry majors capable of escaping darn near any enclosure. And, amazingly enough, they also are experts at climbing trees.
    Dimitar Marinov - Fotolia

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  • horsegirl-foto
  • pondering-lamb
  • goats-foto

Not to step on the toes of chipmunk lovers, but I recently saw an animal show on television that claimed a chipmunk has a memory of about three days. Chipmunks spend much of their workday finding and hiding food. However, after three days, it seems, little Alvin forgets where he stashed the groceries.

That got me to thinking about the relative intelligence of animals. Not instinctive behavior, like geese flying south for the winter or bears preparing their den for winter hibernation, but rather an animal’s ability to acquire knowledge – and put that knowledge to use.

The animal kingdom is filled with overachievers like elephants, dolphins and chimps. Elephants are legendary for recognizing humans and other elephants they haven’t seen for years, and for remembering migratory routes and water holes hundreds of miles away, as well as for using tools like logs to neutralize electric fences. Chimps can be taught sign language, and some dolphins can master far more tasks than the average dog.

Farm animal intelligence

Pig intelligence: Some folks claim pigs are among the smartest of all farm animals. Barnyard pigs can figure out how to open gates, and have been taught to identify and retrieve specific objects. A researcher at Penn State University trained pigs to use a joystick to play video games and move the cursor on a video monitor. Pigs in France have been trained to sniff out truffles, and owners of potbellied pigs say their pets can be housebroken. And don’t confuse a pig’s love of wallowing in mud with stupidity. Pigs are susceptible to sunburn, and they instinctively know that mud makes a great sunblock.

Smart horses: Horse lovers will tell you that horses are the smartest animals in the corral, capable of loyalty, emotion and the ability to make decisions. If you’ve ever watched a roping, bulldogging or cutting horse competition, you’ve seen horses make a decision in a split second. Horses can remember and understand any number of spoken or tactile commands, and can recognize horse and human friends after years of separation. Horses also can be trained to master an impressive repertoire of tricks. In the early 1900s, a horse named Beautiful Jim Key was even taught how to spell out words. Horses also have a sense of humor, and have been known to play tricks on their human friends.

Social cows: While I admire cows, I’ll admit they’re not the brightest bulbs in the ceiling. However, in their defense, cows interact with one another in socially complex ways. They develop friendships, form social hierarchies, and can hold grudges against other cows. A dairy cow in a herd of a hundred knows exactly where her place is in line at the milking parlor, and range cattle never forget where the best grazing can be found.  And if feeding time is 5 p.m., a herd of bawling cows will let you know if you’re even a few minutes late with their supper.

7/26/2014 6:55:17 AM

Food and nutrition both are two important fact for every living organism that gives them the strength to grow up and to live happily. While thinking about the pet nutrition it is really necessary to have knowledge regarding the proper type of food for the particular pet. Just like grass feeding is one of the way that makes the cows to have a proper growth in them for which farming is necessary. If you want more knowledge regarding then go through any animal hospital for details.

5/29/2014 6:12:10 AM

Cows are treated as the pet animal and providing several type of household essential food items. But you need to take proper care of them and for that better to take the advices from for more information. From various types of mediums you can get the information properly.

10/23/2013 4:26:47 AM

I agree with all but the sheep. Most breeds aren't too sharp, but check out this documentary on Icelandic leader sheep!

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