Cows’ Moos Carry A Lot More Meaning Than You Ever Imagined

What do cows mean when they moo?

Scientists in England have been eavesdropping on “conversations” between cows and their calves to answer that question–and they’ve discovered that moos convey a lot more meaning than you ever imagined.

“This is the first time that complex cattle calls have been analyzed using the latest and best techniques,” Dr. Alan McElligott, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and the co-author of a new study about moos, said in a written statement. “Our results provide an excellent foundation for investigating vocal indicators of cattle welfare.”

The scientists spent 10 months digitally recording call sounds from two herds of free-range cattle on a farm in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. The researchers then spent several months performing the acoustic and statistical analysis of the data. They determined that mother cows use two types of contact calls with their calves: a quiet low-frequency call when the calf is nearby and a loud high-frequency call when the calf is far away. Calves produce one type of contact call when they’re separated from their mothers and they want to nurse.

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A mother cow’s low-frequency call.

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