Are animals the greatest weather predictors?

“Batten down the hatches, there is a storm rolling in,” signals the cow lying in the pasture or the bird flying low.  An old wives’ tale perhaps, or can animals truly sense an impending storm? 

There is some truth that lies within animals being keen weather predictors and some not.  Let’s start out with the taller tales according to the Farmer’s Almanac:

  • When cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.
  • When horses and cattle stretch out their necks and sniff the air, it will rain.
  • When pigs gather leaves and straw in fall, expect a cold winter.
  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.
  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain.

Although folklore travels the ages and we really want to believe that a groundhog can predict when seasons change, we may want to attribute it more to animals being more sensitive to the surrounding environment, according to John Linehan, president and CEO of Zoo New England.

In an article, Linehan said, based on his 30 years of experience of observing animal behaviors, “Animals have more developed senses than humans, such as sense of smell and hearing, and that leads to their ability to detect impending weather changes sooner.” 

Researchers have observed the following:

  • Birds and bees appear to sense drop in barometric pressure and will instinctively seek the cover of their nests or hives
  • Sharks swam to deeper waters after barometric pressure dropped

So indeed there are truths to the connection between animals and weather, but perhaps not in such a “crystal ball” sort of way.