Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Animal Weather Signs in Montana

My thanks to Dean for this very interesting pair of emails from dry cow country, Montana, USA:

Tristan, I’m getting to the last fifty pages of your book on weather.

Growing up I was told that it’s going to rain IF the cows are laying down BEFORE NOON.  They normally don’t lay down until the afternoon.  This isn’t infallible, but I’ve found it to work often.

I now live in cow country in Montana.  I live in the county seat, a town of 300, and 1250 in the county, which is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  Not counting calves, we have about 60,000 cows in the county year round.  We also have deer, elk, antelope and more.

You comment on page 287 that “ herd animals bunch together if there is a threat, including predators and bad weather, . . .”  Add to that list flies and other biting bugs (a predator).  I’ve seen cattle close together when flies are biting and a couple of days ago I noticed groups of horses doing the same thing.  You’ll often see two horses standing beside each other head to tail.  Each switching their own flies with their tail helps their buddy out too.  Their tails seem to work better as fly swatters than do those of cattle.

I wish I had a good way of cataloging and remembering all your tips . . .

Thanks for writing the books, Dean

P.S.  I was bemused yesterday while reading your section on Banff and bears . . . I have never carried bear spray, even when I hike in bear country.  I do carry a hand gun . . . as much for two-legged coyotes as for anything else.  And snakes!  Nothing to get your heart started like the sound of a rattler!  And there are grasshopper out here some years that fly and sound like a rattler when they take off.


The two pictures were actually taken about three to four miles from each other on the same ranch.  I hope you don’t start a bunch of people moving this way . . . we’ve already had an influx since Covid.  We like the country empty of people!  It takes from thirty to fifty acres per year PER COW because we’re so dry, with parts drier yet.  I’m not sure what it takes if you factor in the hay for the winter . . .

It is hard to tell from the pictures just how flat the land is NOT!

I’ve been getting to see lots of clouds the past few days.  We’ve been very dry but had rain storms the past three of four evenings.  We got the most rain from last night.  We hit 100 degrees yesterday and 104 the day before.  I don’t remember what it was the other evening it rained.

I grew up in Ohio and we had tornados there over the years.  I stood out and watched one  several miles away twenty-some years ago.  I sat out in one three years ago (bigger than previous ones I’d seen).  We get some pretty fierce storms here from time to time.  This one scattered a tractor over several miles, among other things.  It wasn’t nearly that bad where I was, but I got concerned nonetheless!  I was out camping with a group from a church camp.


Thanks Dean, I love hearing about observations from readers all over the world, not least those embedded in wild country.

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