20 bizarre facts about farm animals
by Peter Giffen
If society is made stronger by diversity, then we have a lot to learn from the animal communities in farmyards, which display a wide range of bizarre behaviours. There are cows who drool 25 gallons of spit a day, ducks who hiss and purr, and even pigs who play videogames.
That’s a lot of cow fluid
Cows are big fluid producers. Not only can dairy cows yield 2,500 gallons of milk each year, they can drool about 10 to 45 gallons of saliva a day!
What’s more, a thousand-pound beef cow will produce up to four tons of manure annually.
Sheep can see you around
Sheep are really hard to surprise from behind. Their eyes have a field of vision of 300 degrees, allowing them to see whatever is sneaking up on them from the rear, without moving their heads.
And like goats, they don’t have teeth on their upper jaw — they use their hard palates to grind food.
Mother chicken knows best
We once believed that chickens’ behaviour was instinctual. But now there is mounting evidence to suggest that chicks learn the ropes by observing other chickens, especially their mothers.
Hens steer their babies away from dangers, like bad food and predators, teaching them valuable life lessons.
Goats look on the sunny side of things
The Humane Society of the United States reports that goats can be optimists. A study compared goats who had been abused before being rescued to goats that had never been mistreated.
The mistreated female goats were more likely to approach and trust previously unseen buckets of food that had replaced buckets containing their favourite treats.
“The researchers reasoned that the animals recognized their once-stressful living situation had improved, rendering them more optimistic.”
Smart as a pig
Pigs are considered to be the fourth most intelligent animal, after chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants.
They are among the fastest learners in nature. Some pigs have reportedly discovered how to open and shut doors, guide flocks of sheep, and even play video games.
In 1996, scientists revealed that Dolly the Sheep was the first mammal to ever be cloned from another’s body cell. It sparked a heated debate about the ethics and implications of cloning.
“It basically means that there are no limits. It means all of science fiction is true,” said Princeton University biologist Dr. Lee Silver in a New York Times interview.
Dolly died six years later and is now on display at the National Museum in Scotland in Scotland.
The colour of chicken eggs
Whether white, brown, cream, green, or blue, the colour of chicken eggs is determined by the bird’s genetics. (Quality and taste of the eggs can be affected by the bird’s living conditions and types of food consumed.)
All eggs start out white in color, and may have other pigments added as they make their way through the hen’s oviduct.
Like a goat on caffeine
If goats jumping around look like they are riding a coffee buzz, it’s appropriate. An Ethiopian legend claims that coffee beans were discovered by goats.
As food writer Tori Avey explains, a goat herder named Kaldi “found his goats frolicking and full of energy after eating the red fruit of the coffee shrub.” Kaldi tried some of the fruit himself, with a similar reaction, and the grounds were put into place for the favourite morning addiction of millions.
Ducks not all they are quacked up to be
We all know that ducks quack. But do they really? Most male ducks are on the silent side, while female ducks make more noises.
While some quacking may be involved, vocalizations can also include hisses, purrs, grunts, squeaks, whistles, honks, and much more. Sounds differ according to need — for example, they might signal that the duck is begging for food, begging for love, or warning of danger.
Do pigs sweat?
It is a myth that pigs do not have sweat glands. They have a few, but not enough to effectively regulate their body temperatures (as all mammals must) when temperatures rise.
So, that’s why on a hot day you’ll see swine rolling around in the water and mud.
Cow tipping isn’t really a thing
Although some drunken carousers may claim they have gone into farmers’ fields and tipped over unsuspecting cows, this is unlikely to be true.
A University of British Columbia study found it would take the equivalent strength of 4.43 people to push a cow over. If you see a cow on the ground, that’s because they relax and sleep there (they’re not always standing up like horses).
Rabbits jump for joy
When rabbits are happy, they do something called a “binky” — they jump into the air and spin around. And when we say “fast as a jackrabbit,” that’s fast: jackrabbits have been clocked bounding (joyfully) at speeds of 72 kilometres per hour.
Serially monogamous ducks
Ducks usually stick to the same partner for a breeding season, but they do not often mate for life.
When the next breeding season comes around, they look for the next healthiest, most robust mate, so the best genes are passed on to the next generation.
Length of the turkey snood
Turkey gobblers (males) and hens (females) both have a snood (dangling appendage on the face) and a wattle (red dangly thing under the chin).
The longer the snood, the healthier the turkey. And apparently, hens like gobblers with long snoods.
Cows respond to kindness
Research has proven that if you name a cow and treat her as an individual, she will produce almost 500 more pints of milk annually. And in case you were wondering, it takes approximately 350 squirts from the udder to produce a gallon of milk.
Horses fast from the get-go
Horses don’t like to wait around. A foal will usually start galloping about 24 hours after birth. If a foal’s legs seem long for its body, it’s because they are. They are almost the same length they will be when the horse reaches maturity.
Alpacas are fire resistant
Llama-like alpacas were originally domesticated by the ancient Incas. They were brought to farmyards in the U.S. and Canada in the 1980s.
The fibre from their fleece is prized for being “stronger than mohair, finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down, and better-breathing than thermal knits.” It’s also fire resistant.
Always worth a gander
Geese were probably one of the first kind of animals to be domesticated by humans, in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
A female is a goose; a male is a gander. A group of geese on land is a gaggle; in the air, it’s a skein.
Horses aren’t laughing at you
Don’t be insecure. The horse isn’t laughing at you. It’s actually engaged in a behaviour called “flehmen,” which is a reaction to certain scents.
But horses do express themselves through facial expressions, using their eyes and ears to communicate. So, if a horse seems to be looking down its nose at you . . .
Ducks are pigs
Ducks are not particularly picky about what they eat. In fact, they are omnivores, indiscriminately noshing on insects, aquatic plants, grass, fish, fruit, seeds, crustaceans, and just about anything that humans will feed them.
They will also aid their digestion with grit that comes from consuming sand, gravel, pebbles, and tiny shells.