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Cows flock to the sound of saxophones

“Here Bossie; here Bossie!” is how I remember cows being called home when I was a kid. (I always thought “Bossie” was a “typical” name for cows, like “Fido” for dogs.)

Today I volunteer on a ranch and my rancher calls, “Come on, cows; come on cows!” in a very deep almost mooing voice. I myself have taken to calling “Dinnertime, din-din-dinnertime!” in a sing-song voice a bit higher because my high voice carries much better than my low voice. Once the herd realized I too had food, they had no problem responding to my call variation.

This got me to thinking about how cows communicate with their single-word vocabulary: moo. I suspect moo can speak volumes, however, as it varies in pitch, frequency, and duration. A cow will call to find the herd, to alert the herd of food or to alert the herd of danger. A cow will call to her calf or when looking for a mate. A bull will also call when looking for a mate, impressing her with his mastery of moo. If you give it much observation, the versatility of moo is amazing.

Another attraction to sound cows seem to have is to music. Apparently their attraction to jazz music has been documented on an Animal Planet video and the experiment has been repeated by others (as in this video). At first I again thought it was the deepness, or imitation of the moo (as with my rancher’s call), until my daughter started playing country music in the barn on her ipod and her cow wandered over immediately. The heifer stood and stared at the box from which the sound originated spellbound, similar to the cow in this video with the sax. Perhaps music is a universal language among not only different people groups but among different species as well.

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