Cows actually really hate cowbells

No more cowbell.
No more cowbell.
Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
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Like hyper-secretive banks and crystalline mountain peaks, the sound of soft, scattered cowbell clunks floating up Swiss mountainsides is deeply embedded in life in Switzerland. It really is beautiful.

To everybody except the cows, that is. It turns out cowbells make cows pretty miserable.

A new study from researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich found that cows wearing the five-and-a-half pound bells ate and chewed less than cows without the bells. Researchers noted that it was unclear if it was the noise or the weight of the bells that bothered the animals.

Cows are known to have more sensitive hearing than humans. And the bells can generate sounds louder than 100 decibels.

“This is as loud as a jackhammer,” Edna Hillmann, director of the technology institute’s animal behavior, health and welfare section, told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag. She’s right.

Besides the noise and weight, the bells are also known to sometimes generate sores on the animals’ necks from friction. Any solutions?  ”In the age of IT, it would be to replace a light, bell with chips,” said Julia Johns, who studied the impact of the cowbells as part of her doctoral dissertation, according to the Swiss paper. “The farmer could then locate his cattle with the smartphone.”

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