Can Animals Predict the Weather? Animal Folklore

Animals That Predict Rain, Storms, and Cold Weather

August 6, 2021
Cow
Pixabay

Can animals predict the weather? Do squirrels know when a storm is coming? Do cows lie down before rain? Can ladybugs predict how cold the weather will be? Observe animals and you’ll see that they, too, have their own ways of predicting the weather. Enjoy fun folklore about animal forecasters!

Can Cows Forecast Weather?

Perhaps the greatest amount of weather folklore surrounds cows.

One saying is “When cattle lie down in the pasture, it indicates early rain.” Cows, like many animals, are affected by changes in air pressure. They become restless when stormy weather approaches and may lie down in a dry spot. (Of course, cows also lie down for a number of other reasons!)

But how about this folklore?

  • If a cow stands with its tail to the west, the weather is said to be fair. If a cow grazes with its tail to the east, the weather is likely to turn sour.

There is some truth here. Animals graze with their tail toward the wind so that if a predator sneaks up behind them, the wind will help catch the scent of the predator and prevent an attack.

Many animals are affected by changes in air pressure—including us humans! Here are some more proverbs to ponder:

  • Expect rain when dogs eat grass, oxen sniff the air, and swine are restless.

  • If the bull leads the cows to pasture, expect rain; if the cows precede the bull, the weather will be uncertain.

  • When hungry bites the thirsty flea, rain and clouds you sure shall see.

  • When horses and cattle stretch out their necks and sniff the air, it will rain.

Frogs Croak Loudly When It’s About to Rain

Ever heard that “frogs croak loadly when it’s about to rain”? It’s true! Why? Frogs croak loadly to mate, and they are more successful following a good rain. This is because the eggs are layed in bodies of water (fresh water). The male frogs will start croaking with more gusto before a rain.

Think of it as setting the mood for the ladies. And for humans, a cue to grab your umbrella!

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Sheep Huddle Up Before Rain or Snow

As with cows, there is a lot of forecasting folklore regarding sheep. One proverb states, ”When sheep turn into the wind, expect rain.”

Another says, “If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.

Conversely, if sheep huddle up in a tight group, expect rain or snow. Frankly, if you had warm and woolly friends, wouldn’t you huddle up, too? 

Sheep

Spiders, Caterpillars, and Ladybugs Predict Cold Weather

  • Spider webs in your basement or house says cold weather is coming and time to seek shelter! (Don’t kill basement spiders if they’re staying to themselves; they are helpful and eat other pests!)

  • Ladybugs can also help predict cold weather. If you spot these spotted bugs, they’re also seeking shelter. There’s a chance that winter is on its way!

  • Woolly bear caterpillars are famous for being winter weather predictors: The more brown they have on their bodies, the milder winter will be. Read more about woolly bears!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar. Photo by sillyputtyenemies/Wikimedia.
Woolly bear caterpillars are famous for their winter predictions. Photo by sillyputtyenemies/Wikimedia.

Crickets Predict the Temperature

We all know the evening sound of a cricket. Did you know the number of cricket chirps report the temperature? No kidding! Just count the number of times a cricket chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 to that number. The total is the temperature in Fahrenheit. Take a few measurements and then use the average to determine the temperature. See more about cricket temperature.

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When Cats Sneeze, Rain’s On Its Way

We all know that our feline friends seem to have extra-sensory abilities (at least, the cats think so). But is there any truth to this? A book commissioned by the American War Department, “Weather Proverbs,” in 1883 stated that cats had many ways to predict weather. Here are two age-old proverbs:

When cats purr and wash, rain’s on the way.

Also: When cats sneeze, it’s a sign of rain

We find that our cats sneeze for a number of reasons. But it certainly could be true. Just don’t expect your cat to let you in on the mystery!

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When Birds Fly Low, Bad Weather’s Coming

Birds may be the best weather predictors of them all. Birds tend to fly low when a storm is coming and higher in good weather, due to changes in air pressure. 

In fact, birds seem to know when to evacuate an area before storms and bad weather arrive. Studies hypothesize that the birds hear infrasound (a low-frequency noise) coming from an approaching storm system before it’s visible. This capability also helps birds’ determine migration patterns because they can identify weather patterns in advance. 

See more about birds predicting weather.

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More Animal Forecasters and Folklore

  • Bats flying late in the evening indicates fair weather.

  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.

  • If the mole digs its hole 2½ feet deep, expect severe weather; if two feet deep, not so severe; if one foot deep, a mild winter.

  • When pigs gather leaves and straw in fall, expect a cold winter.

  • When rabbits are fat in October and November, expect a long, cold winter.

Enjoy winter weather lore and observing nature’s signs!

Did we miss any animal weather proverbs? Please share proverbs that you’ve heard in the comments below!

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Reader Comments

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Folklore

Farmers when planting corn would go by the whipperwill, when the whipperwill started hollowing it was time to plant corn.

Wolves and howling

Um, Lynn Emma LeDuc, wolves do howl

weather folklore

It says, wolves howl before a storm. But wolves don't howl. Coyote's howl not wolves.

Can animals predict the weather

We had horses and we always knew how cold the upcoming winter would be, or if winter was going to arrive early by how long and how soon in the fall their coat would grow. The earlier the winter coat would grow meant an early winter. The thicker the coat the colder the upcoming winter would be. The reverse was true at the end of winter. The earlier they would shed their winter coat, the sooner spring was on its way.

Cicadas in AZ

I always heard that when the cicadas start to buzz, the monsoon is 15 days away. We’ve had lots of rain this year, just as predicted by the Almanac.

Animal Weather Predictions

If a cat chases it’s own tail, the weather will change. Summertime/Spring/Fall - rain is on the way.
Late Fall/Winter - snow is on the way.

If they run around your house at top speed, really severe weather on the way.

animal predicts weather

cattle gather near a fence corner in a pasture a storm is coming.

If you see snake moving to higher ground or crossing a highway, rain is coming.

If horse or cattle tails are switching to keep biting flies off, a storm is coming.

If during the day birds chirping fades and it becomes very quiet, storm approaching.

birds and rain

if the birds on a wire are all facing the same way, it is going to rain

Weather and Bees

Living in Maine for 12 years, I learned that if hornets build their hives high up in the trees, you will have a lot of snow in the winter. If they build closer to the ground, you won't have a lot of snow.

Weather prediction

When I used to raise goats , goats have a lot of personality, but if you’ve ever had the chance to raise them , and watch them , the weirder they are , on a day , there will be an earthquake somewhere, , and it doesn’t even have to be close

Weather predictions

I have learned by older friends, in a new moon if it looks tipped as a cup pouring out water it will precipitated in the next 72 hours ( I never seen this one wrong) and watch the trees, the leaves only turn over if it will rain and the bark of the trees tell the winter. Thin bark is mild winter thick bark is colder winter and spongey bark is wet winter. I have been watching trees for the most of 40 years. The trees seem to be reliable.

Weather predictions by animals

Don’t forget the groundhog!
I read the muskrat lore in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder part of the Little House series.
My parents always watched our dogs. We lived in a California. If an earthquake was imminent dogs would get very restless. Sometimes as much as 24 to 36 hours before. My terrier mix had her puppies the day before a major quake and they were not due for a week!p

Animals Predict Weather...Spider Webs

I have always heard that if a spider spins its web with the strands close together it will be a cold winter...if it spins its strands far apart it will be mild.

animals/insects predicting the weather

My father always said cows laying under a tree in the morning meant rain.He also said when you hear the locusts during the day - 6 weeks to frost.

Loons and Wind

If a loon is singing and flying it will be a windy day the next day (the more the loon sings the stronger the wind will be)...depending on the direction the loon is flying will determine the direction the wind will come from.

Animals and Weather

I have always gone by Muskrat houses to predict winter. Usually worked. If the houses are built high/tall means it is going to be a very cold winter. If low to the water surface usually means a mild winter and lots of snow. Also if coats of Whitetail deer are dark or look black usually means a cold & hard winter.

Chomilians

What is cause of many & more chomillians?

Muskrat houses

My father always looked to the muskrat houses to see how cold the winter would be. We lived next to a swamp with lots of muskrats. It did seem like the muskrats knew, as the bigger the house, the colder the winter.

Animals predict weather

You're spot on about the muskrats it's also true of beavers. Deer, elk and moose are great predictors of weather. When their coats change color in Sept, it will be an early fall and winter. My dogs fur are great predictors of long term weather. Blowing their coats tell of heat, thick coats tell of cold weather.

Cows and Leaves

My mother always said that if the cows are laying down in the field it is going to rain. Also if the leaves are turning their back to you it is going to rain!

Cows predicting rain

I've noticed that when cows are grouped together, in the field, it's going to rain. If the cows are scattered throughout the field, the weather is going to be fair. It's always worked for me.

Cows predict fish biting activity

I've always heard a saying & I've found it to be true. If you are going fishing and you pass by a bunch of cows in the field and the majority of them are lying (laying) down on the ground, then you may as well turn around and go home because the fish WILL NOT be biting!

Desert Tortoise and Tarantula

In the southwest deserts the sign that rain is on the way is when you see Tarantulas and Tortoises traveling across open ground during the afternoon or evening. They are mostly active during the night or early morning, but come out of their burrows when the humidity begins to rise and the move to high ground. I have heard from my granddad if you see a Tarantula crossing a road, you will see rain in 4 hours.

birds

When I was a young child, when we heard the Whippoorwill is was a sign we could go barefoot. We always loved that time of year the dirt felt good on our feet.

Also regarding the saying red in the morning sailors take warning, red at night sailors delight is also Bibical. Check Matthew 16:2.

birds

When I was a young child, when we heard the Whippoorwill is was a sign we could go barefoot. We always loved that time of year the dirt felt good on our feet.

Also regarding the saying red in the morning sailors take warning, red at night sailors delight is also Bibical. Check Matthew 16:2.

Animals Predicting Weather

My grandfather always said a thicker coat on animals that are outside (cattle, Deer, etc) if their coats are much thicker than normal in fall expect a much colder weather. This has proven to be true much of the time. I have never known him to be wrong......

Animals Predicting Weather

I've also found that to be true. If the outside animals coats are darker & heavier than normal the winter will be colder than normal & possibly wetter as well.

beautiful Italian proverb

with the same meaning as "red skies at night..." the beautiful Italian proverb says: "Rosso di sera, bel tempo si 'spera. Rosso di mattina, la piogia si a vicina." (love it, had to share)

Animals and weather

When ants start moving their larvae, expect rain.

Dragonflies and Tropical Cyclones

When the dragonflies gather and increase, a typhoon (or hurricane) is coming. It's an "old wives's tale" in Okinawa, but I noticed it was pretty accurate when I was stationed there. It seemed to be fairly accurate in the US on the East Coast as well. Seeing dragonflies here in Colorado is definitely random, and you have to be near a body of water.

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