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Experts Paint Eyes on Cow Butts—and It Works

Researchers find a low-cost way to save cattle in Botswana
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2020 10:16 AM CDT
Updated Aug 15, 2020 2:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Want to save cattle from predatory attacks? First, paint eyeballs on their butts. Then see what happens. That's pretty much the gist of a new study out of Botswana—and it worked, Happy Mag reports. Researchers at the University of South Wales painted the eyes on cow butts to stop big cats like lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas from turning the cattle into lunch. In fact, the scientists tried it on 14 different herds, dividing each into three groups: one with butt eyes, one with a cross on the backside, and one au naturel. Over four years, none of the cows with extra eyes were attacked, compared to four with the cross and 15 left unmarked.

The study replicates so-called "eye-spots" on birds and butterflies that make assailants think they're being watched. It also resembles the old Aussie trick of wearing sunglasses on the back of the head to ward off magpie attacks. But this is "the first time eyespots have been shown to deter large mammalian predators," study author Cameron Radford says in a press release. "We think this may suggest the presence of an inherent response to eyes that could be exploited to modify behavior in practical situations—such as to prevent human-wildlife conflicts, and reduce criminal activity in humans." It's unknown whether big cats can figure out the trick, but for now, farmers appear to have a simple, low-cost way of defending their cattle. (Read more cattle stories.)

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