KentuckyFC writes In a classic The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, a group of cows stand on two legs chatting by the side of a road when a lookout shouts "car". The cows immediately drop to a four-legged stance as the car passes by and return to their usual position and continue chatting when it has gone. Now a team of animal behavior specialists have discovered that the social lives of cattle are more complex than biologists had ever imagined (although not quite into Larson territory). These guys attached RFID tags to 70 Holstein-Fresian calves kept in three pens. They then monitored the position of each cow for a week to see which other animals they tended to have contact with. This allowed them to construct the social network for the cows with unprecedented detail. It turns out these social networks have many of the properties of human social networks. Cows have preferred partners who they tend to spend more time with and 60 per cent of their contacts occur during feeding which amounts to only 6 per cent of their time. The work has important applications. It should help biologists more accurately model how disease spreads through herds of cattle and therefore better understand how to tackle epidemics.
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