Can Cows Really Forecast the Weather?

The Met Office is once again telling us that the Jet Stream is not where it should be this August and as a result the Azores High is not pushing far enough north to prevent endless low pressure systems hitting the UK. This is why the hot summer weather that holidaymakers hope for in August has not materialised - again. Here in the Surrey Hills there has, however, been a reasonable variation in the actual weather compared to the BBC / Met Office nightly forecast. So today I have put aside my iphone weather apps, the weather station and the BBC and turned to some countryside folklore weather forecasting -  (This has coincided with someone buying me a copy of Weather Forecasting - The Country Way.) The most famous folklore tale is that cows lie down when it is going to rain. According to Robin Page, author of the above, they will only do this in cold weather. He does however state that they are in fact particularly good weather indicators, so off I went in search of the pedigree Sussex cows of the Woodhill herd. When a cow tries to scratch its ear, it means a shower is very near. When it clumps its side with its tail, look out for thunder lightning and hail... so the famous folklore rhyme goes...apparently. Also 'in hilly country, when it is likely to remain fine, cows remain near the hill tops. If they are sniffing the air and walking down the hill towards the farmyard, however, then rain or a storm will follow.' I found the Woodhill herd at Reelhall farm where they have been since the pasture ran dry up on the field behind Upper Woodhill Farm known as The Bumps. The herd were at the bottom of a large hill, near the farm yard, sniffing the air and clumping their sides with their tails. The sky was looking angry - could Page be right? The science behind this is that troublesome flies become more active during the warm humid build up to a storm. Interestingly the BBC had forecast the possibility of thunder storms in the South East today. Would we get them? the evidence was showing that the cows seemed to think so. I looked for a second opinion. According to Page swallows fly high when the day is to be fine, following the insects on which they feed. Sadly there does not seem to be a catchy rhyme for this one. The swallows at the farm today were skimming the ground.  It did not look good for the afternoon. On returning home I checked the fir cone I acquired yesterday for the purposes of today's experiment - it was fully closed, a sure sign that wet weather was on the way. At 6.30 this evening we had a sharp shower which lasted around 15 minutes and at the time of writing the skies are clearing - no sign of the thunder storm yet. If we get one tonight I'll post an update here - if we don't then stick with the BBC. UPDATE: No thunder storms last night but a rumble of thunder and a torrential soaking this afternoon - 24 hours after the 'clumping of tails' reported above. It looks like the cows are long range specialists.

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