For cows, a good scratch is as important as a good meal, researchers have found.
In a paper published in the journal Biology Letters, scientists led by Emilie McConnachie from Canada’s University of British Columbia report that cows are prepared to go to considerable effort to access a big spinning brush and then rub themselves up against it.
The scientists set up a three-pronged experiment to test bovine desire. Gated enclosures were set up, containing, variously, food, the spinning brush, or nothing. To enter each enclosure the cows had to push against the gate.
During several repetitions of the challenge, McConnachie and colleagues kept increasing the weight of the gate, meaning the cows had to go to greater effort and expend more energy to access the reward.
They found that animals pushed as hard in the quest to get to the scratcher as they did to reach the food.