The greatest unanswered questions about animals BMJ

Life is full of untold mysteries but when it comes to animals we largely think we have them figured out. We judge animals as a lesser species compared to all intelligent humans and we assume that we can explain all of their behavior. However, the more we learn about animals the more we realize that there is so much that we don’t understand about them. Here are some of the greatest unanswered questions about animals?

Why do cows face that way?

When cows eat they always face either North or South. We generally think of cows as pretty unintelligent animals but the ability to eat in a certain direction all the time is remarkable. If most of us were asked to face North numerous times a day, we would fail. The question is though, why do cows do this? While it is an impressive trick, to be truly impressed there needs to be a good reason. The reality is we just don’t know. Scientists say there is no reason for cows to face North or South today. 

Some have theorized that in the past before these animals were domesticated they would have to migrate and they have kept their North/South instincts since then, but at present, this is just a theory. Either way, the next time you want to know which way is North, just lookout for a cow to tell you.

How can animals predict earthquakes?

If there is one piece of clear evidence that animals still know things about the world that we don’t, it is earthquakes. People invest huge amounts of time and money into better understanding earthquakes and we can still only predict them moments before they happen. Some animals are able to predict earthquakes weeks or months before they take place. There are numerous records of snakes, rats, and insects fleeing the low lying ground weeks before an earthquake happens.

How do they know it is going to happen? We have no idea. There must be some occurrence that indicates to them it is time to flee, but we don’t perceive it. Perhaps it is one of their heightened senses realizing something that we are not.

These are just two of the best questions that are still unexplained yet there are many more. We don’t know how sharks are able to navigate so well, we don’t know why chimpanzees wage war against other chimpanzees. We can’t explain the routine behavior of many animals like why pack animals play or why some birds appear to hold grudges. In a world where we sometimes think everything is discovered, there is a lot more to learn. The arrogance of man can be quickly undone by shedding light on our ignorance of the world.