Licking each other cows created a complex social network

Cows, they are domestic bulls (Bos taurus taurus), strengthen the ties between members of the herd, licking each other, reported in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science. Researchers from Chile and the USA found some interesting regularities in this process: often lick each other’s age; individuals older lick maximum number of different individuals; each cow often licks those already licked it, as if doing a favor. All this suggests that between cows in the herd there is a complex relationship, knowing that you can improve the quality of life of animals.

Cows are gregarious creatures. In any group of animals exchange signals with each other, in many — build the hierarchy, while the position of an individual in such a hierarchy often depends on his health, lifespan, number of offspring and many more. So even from a purely pragmatic purposes it makes sense to study the social structure of the herd of domestic oxen — so that when other things being equal, to each particular individual the maximum amount of milk or meat.

It is known that cows, like many other types of group way of life, often lick each other (pure wool), not even being relatives. This phenomenon is called allogrooming. His laws — that someone who usually cleans and how often — frequently reflect the seniority in the group. Thus, Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) are usually dominant individuals check wool “slave.”

Whether the value of the cow when allogrooming rank and the age of the other individuals, decided to find out the staff of the Universidad Austral (Valdivia, Chile) and Western University of health Sciences (Pomona, USA) under the direction of Gustavo Monti (Gustavo Monti). They are six weeks straight five days a week from 9 to 12 a.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. observed the behavior of groups of cows, each of which had recently calved.

First, the group was 21 individual, once a week, it was added, had given birth the day before. By the beginning of the sixth week it was 38 cows. The researchers determined how much time each spends on allogrooming, someone who prefers to lick, and correlated this with the age and grade of the animal. Rank was determined by how many times within a certain time individual fought with others and one.

It turned out that cows older lick a greater number of individuals than the young. While animals of the highest rank were subjected to grooming less often than others. Newcomers in the group licked more different individuals than those who appeared in it before. Those who more often engaged in allogrooming had no special preference, clean. In General, however, individuals often licked those who once did the same thing with them. Cows for the most part licked contemporaries: the grooming provoked by the fact that the animals grew up together.

In General the social structure of the group was stable despite the fact that it was added new individuals. However, the activity levels of each individual animal in terms of allogrooming is markedly different and depended on his age, hierarchical position in the mini-herd and degree of familiarity with the others. This suggests that the social relations of cows is very complicated — more complicated than it may seem. Especially interesting is probable that they have reciprocal (reciprocal) altruism — a situation when one organism helps another because he helped him previously, or with high probability will help in the future. It is usually show animals with a high intelligence level.

We recently wrote about how surveillance for inactive cows helps to improve their quality of life on farms. And reciprocal altruism in recent years, often study in rats. In 2020 the group of Michael Taborsky from the University of Bern showed that these rodents carefully choosewho to help, and will most likely get food to those who really need it, than satiated dogs. This kind of protection from the parasites and guarantee that the one who helped subsequently more likely to return that favor.

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