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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When Betta Splendens (Siamese

When Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish) leap, expect thunderstorms. Not a proverb, just something I've noticed over the years.

When cats and dogs shed more

When cats and dogs shed more fur than usual during the summer and their coats thin out, expect a hot, dry spell.

When there might be tornado activity nearby, you will see a pale yellow tint in the sky. Take cover.

If birds keep active during a

If birds keep active during a rain, the rain will continue. If they shelter, then the rain will soon stop.

I've never heard that before,

I've never heard that before, but it seems like it's backwards. Seems like birds would stay out if the rain was soon to stop, but go in if it was going to rain for awhile.

No, it’s not backwards.

The birds try to stay dry as much as possible. So if it’s going to stop raining, they’ll stay in and wait for the end of the rain. It if it’s going to continue to rain, they have to go out and find food. It’s just like you and me. If we have to go to the grocery and know the storm is going to break soon, we wait for the end of the rain before going out.

If you see tarantulas in the

If you see tarantulas in the middle of the road they are seeking high ground and you can expect 1/2 inch of rain or more

Here's another one: "If foxes

Here's another one:

"If foxes bark after midnight, expect rain."

I've a Chihuahua, which is

I've a Chihuahua, which is decended from the Fennec Fox. He will bark no matter the time, if he thinks something is needed to be brought to my attention. So, I don't really see this as fact.

i also heard that you can

i also heard that you can tell how bad the winter is going to be by where the hornets nest are built down low bad winter up high mild winter then some people say its the opposite way i dont know for sure which it is if any of you know reply back

Hi, Suzie, Yes! There's an

The Editors's picture

Hi, Suzie, Yes! There's an old saying, "When hornets build their nests near the ground, expect a cold and early winter."