Can Animals Predict the Weather? Animal Proverbs

Predicting Weather with Animals

January 29, 2019

Observe animals and you’ll see that they, too, have their own ways of predicting weather. Here are some animal weather proverbs and prognostics.

Can Cows Forecast Weather?

Perhaps the most folklore is about cows. Certainly, their bodies are affected by changes in air pressure.  This is also true of sheep, cats, and other animals.

  • 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.

This is some true 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. The cow’s prediction might also be wrong during a hurricane

Observing Animals to Predict Rain

  • Expect rain when dogs eat grass, cats purr and wash, sheep turn into the wind, 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 cats sneeze, it is a sign of rain.

  • When cattle lie down in the pasture, it indicates early rain.

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

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

Can Animals Predict Winter Weather?

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

  • 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.


Other Weather Folklore

  • If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.

  • Bats flying late in the evening indicates fair weather.

  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.

Learn More

Birds and insects may be the best weather predictors of them all. See how birds predict weather.

Did you know that you can also predict the temperature by measuring how often crickets chirp? Find out how here!

Also, check out this great video to learn more about how animals predict the weather.

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


Reader Comments

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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.


What is cause of many & more chomillians?

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.


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.


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.

Coyotes yelping (day or night

Coyotes yelping (day or night) means a change in weather. If it has been cold, it will warm up drastically. If it has been warm it is about to turn much colder.
Also, if your dog rolls around on his back, it will be very windy soon.

When a Norther is

When a Norther is approaching, horses will turn their backsides into the storm and face South.

Birds on wires it's going to

Birds on wires it's going to rain!

My grandmother always said -

My grandmother always said - lots of caterpillars meant lots of snow. also - often heard saying- Rainbow in the morning - sailors take warning- Rainbow at night is a farmer's delight.

I've always heard ... Red

I've always heard ... Red sky in morning sailors take warning, red sky at night sailors delight. Red sky in morning means storm coming up; red sky at night they will have smooth sailing with no storm.

I've always heard "Red sky at

I've always heard "Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning, sailors warning."

Grandpa said that when the

Grandpa said that when the leaves on the trees turn over, rain is near.

My Mother always said that

My Mother always said that when the whip-poor-wills start to call in the spring that there would be no more frost.

one thing I've noticed over

one thing I've noticed over the years is that birds always sing more actively before and after a storm.

I've always heard that when

I've always heard that when the cattle are lying down don't go fishing because the fish won't bite.

Dandelions in the fall means

Dandelions in the fall means no winter at all.

I heard cows or bigger

I heard cows or bigger animals in a corner expect a bad storm.

I've heard the size of a

I've heard the size of a squirrel nest will tell how bad of winter it will be. This winter has been less rough and I do notice the nests to be a little smaller than last year in IL.

I was just searching hornets

I was just searching hornets nest because I've seen so many of them this year and all of them have been about 5 to 6 feet from the ground. There must be some truth to this as all the weather stations are predicting a winter much like last year's.

Thanks for sharing. We just

Thanks for sharing. We just released our long-range winter forecast and you are correct. It will be a colder-than-average winter for most of North America.  You can learn more and find the new 2015 edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac here: