Can Animals Predict the Weather? Animal Proverbs

Predicting Weather with Animals

May 21, 2020

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

Can Cows Forecast Weather?

Perhaps the greatest amount of weather folklore surrounds cows. Certainly, their bodies are affected by changes in air pressure. This is also true of sheep, cats, and us.

  • 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. The cow’s prediction might be wrong during a hurricane, however.

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

  • 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

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


Reader Comments

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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

The Editors's picture

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:

I have always heard, "Red sky

I have always heard, "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning sailors warning."

That's in The Bible

That's in The Bible too.
"Jesus said, 'When it is evening ye say, it will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today for the sky is red and lowering.'”
~Matthew 16:2&3

red sky

I've always heard red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning

A cow with its tail to the

A cow with its tail to the west, makes weather the best. A cow with its tail to the east, makes weather the least.


When the wind is in the north, you should not venture forth. When the wind is in the east, it is bad for man and beast. When the wind is in the south, bait blows into fish's mouth. When the wind is in the west, then the fishing's best.

When is the best time to wean

When is the best time to wean calves for market (penned to feed out for auction)? I've heard if a calf is weaned on the increase of the moon, the calf will continue to nurse if put back in the pasture with their mama.

See our best days

The Editors's picture

See our best days timetable--and look for the "weaning" dates:

My father was a farmer all

My father was a farmer all his life and growing up, he tried to tell us some of the things to look for concerning the weather among otheer things. He said to watch the oak tree; iff they were loaded with acorns, we would have a hard winter. Also, if the squirrel's tail in late summer was bushy and as wide as or wlder, you could expect a cold, cold winter.

I love reading these

I love reading these comments. I LOVE this website. In Minnesota (Mpls area) we have seen 47 degree nights and it has been chilly, much like autumn already, and we haven't hit August yet. In front, we have a tall, large bush that is already turning colors from green to yellow to orange to red. I have never in my 50+ years remember having leaves begin to turn color in July. My friend just accidentally bumped into a hornet's nest on her property and said it was low to the ground. Hmm. Those hornets were sure mad. This weather is really weird. I love autumn & winter and am wondering if we might not only see an unusually cold winter this year but snowy as well. I never heard the katydids this year which is odd. So, my question to everyone is -- can anyone help guide me to understand through an old fashioned method how to predict fall and winter weather? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Thank you!  Weather

The Editors's picture

Thank you!  Weather predicting is our favorite topic! You can find much more about predicting weather the old-fashioned way in the annual Old Farmer's Almanac as well as right here on—from woolly worms that predict the severity of winter to observing weather signs. Click here to find more articles:

Hornets are not long-term

Hornets are not long-term weather predictors. In cold climates, they abandon their nest in the fall, and all of them die off except for the queen and her eggs.

If you see a halo around the

If you see a halo around the sun or the moon, then expect a rainstorm very soon.

My grandmother always said,

My grandmother always said, "Thunder before 7(am), clear before 11(am)."

So the comments above agree

So the comments above agree with my findings. The honets nest are low the the ground this year and the wooly bears are mostly black and my horse and dog are doing a really weird shedding thing that I have never seen . So I suggest make sure you have extra wood in the shed and buy a few more sweaters. I think we are in for an old fashioned VT winter.

is it true when pine cones

is it true when pine cones are all the way on top of pine tree , theres gonna be a bad winter with lots of snow.

I noticed strange shedding

I noticed strange shedding action this year (2012)...the horses all started heavily shedding their summer coats in July - have never seen them start shedding before August; September is more common. Yet no winter coats are growing in yet, just continued summer shedding. Also the dogs have been sheadding heavily since about the same time. Again, not seeing any winter hair yet though. Are we in for another mild winter? The Old Farmer's Almanac says colder & drier than normal?

yes my horse been shedding

yes my horse been shedding too, and her wintercoat is already coming in , over night she got all fuzzy :))

1.Before heavy floods (in the

1.Before heavy floods (in the middle of bright clear day) Termites and ants carry their eggs UP: on the tree, wood posts...anything high above the ground
2. Before cold spells cat will seek high ground: top of the furniture, chest...there also tendency to find "hiding place"
3. Before rain mosquitoes and flies became aggressive and blood thirsty.
4. Smoke from fire place will be going down, to the ground (due to pressure drop) 5. Allergy will increase but mood - decrease (Please note it... before you get in fight with your spouses and children)
6. Bubbles in the puddle indicate long rain. 7. Frog's and crickets "singing" plus clouds of tiny flies (in the air, in front of your face) indicates long warm spells

Ive also heard that when

Ive also heard that when thefrogs croak before midnight expect a short shower but if they croak after midnight expect a long rain


When fireflies (lightning bugs) are seen in dusk, the following day will be hot. Same when crickets are heard to chirp.

Two I been using past 10

Two I been using past 10 years. Seems pretty accurate. White furry caterpillars by first half of october bad snowy winter.

The best one, If you notice calf have a winter coat by September the coming winter will be cold and snowy.