Scientists paint eyes on cow butts (for the animals’ own good, really)

Scientists painted eyes on cow butts in Africa to confuse predators like lions.

Ben Yexley/UNSW Sydney

Portray eyes on cow butts would possibly sound like a prank instigated by bored youngsters, however it’s really a intelligent tactic ranchers in South Africa are utilizing to assist shield their livestock from lions and different ambush predators.

The eyes on the cow rumps may provide a extra humane various to deadly management (capturing the predators), in addition to a extra ecological approach to shield livestock than utilizing expensive fencing to separate the cattle from carnivores.

“Lions are ambush predators that depend on stalking, and due to this fact the component of shock, so being seen by their prey can result in them abandoning the hunt,” researcher Neil Jordan, a research co-author from the College of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, stated in an announcement. 


The attention art work is utilized to one of many cows.

Bobby-Jo Images/UNSW Sydney

Researchers labored with farmers within the Okavango Delta area of Botswana to color cattle in 14 herds (with as much as 100 cattle per herd) combating lion assaults. For his or her research, the scientists painted one-third of every herd with a watch design on the cows’ butts and one-third with easy cross marks. They left the remaining with none markings.

The researchers discovered that cattle painted with synthetic eyes have been considerably extra more likely to survive than unpainted or cross-painted management cattle inside the identical herd. In truth, the cows with out eye markings (15 unpainted and 4 cross-painted cattle) have been killed by predators throughout the four-year research.

“Cattle marked with easy crosses have been considerably extra more likely to survive than have been unmarked cattle from the identical herd,” Jordan said. “Though eye-marked cattle have been extra more likely to survive than the opposite teams, this basic ‘conspicuousness’ impact means that novel cross-marks have been higher than no marks in any respect, which was surprising.”

The scientists from UNSW Sydney, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, and Botswana Predator Conservation launched their knowledge in a new study revealed Aug. 7 within the journal Communications Biology.


From behind, this cow seems nearly menacing. 

Cameron Radford/UNSW Sydney

Animals using fake eyes to confuse and detract predators is nothing new. Butterflies, fish, mollusks, amphibians and birds have been identified to sport eye designs on their our bodies to assist them survive towards different creatures in search of a snack. Nevertheless, no mammals naturally produce a pretend eye design on their our bodies to assist towards assaults.

“To our data, our analysis is the primary time eyespots have been proven to discourage massive mammalian predators,” UNSW Ph.D. pupil and research co-author Cameron Radford said. “We predict this will likely counsel the presence of an inherent response to eyes that may very well be exploited to change conduct in sensible conditions — comparable to to forestall human-wildlife conflicts and cut back felony exercise in people.” 

Apparently, portray eyes on animal butts to scare off predators was an concept used within the children’s story about the character Babar, who paints eyes on the hind flanks of elephants to scare off rhinoceroses threatening to assault. 

Whether or not or not the scientists discovered inspiration within the children’ story or got here up with the thought on their very own, portray eyes on cow butts may find yourself serving to farmers save each time and money in defending their livestock. 

“The attention-cow method is considered one of a lot of instruments that may stop carnivore-livestock battle, however no single device is more likely to be a silver bullet,” Jordan said. “Certainly we have to do significantly better than a silver bullet if we’re to make sure the profitable coexistence of livestock and huge carnivores. However we’re hoping this easy, low-cost, non-lethal strategy may cut back the prices of coexistence for these farmers bearing the brunt.”

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Bonnie Burton