Bovine Dialectology

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Aug 24 16:27:39 UTC 2006

Farmers: Cows mooo with a twang

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Cows have regional accents, a group of
British farmers claims, and phonetics experts say the idea is not as
far-fetched as it sounds. Lloyd Green, from southwest England, was one of
a group of farmers who first noticed the phenomenon. "I spend a lot of
time with my Friesians and they definitely 'moo' with a Somerset drawl,"
he said, referring to the breed of dairy cow he owns.

"I've spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have
noticed a similar development in their own herds. "I think it works the
same as with dogs - the closer a farmer's bond is with his animals, the
easier it is for them to pick up his accent." Dom Lane, spokesman for a
group called the West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers to which Green
belongs, said it contacted John Wells, Professor of Phonetics at
University College London, who said that a similar phenomenon had been
found in birds.

"You find distinct chirping accents in the same species around the
country. This could also be true of cows," Wells said on the group's Web
site. According to Lane, accents among cows probably develop in a similar
way as among humans, and resulted from spending time with farmers with
differing accents. "Apparently the biggest influence on accents is peer
groups -- on children in the playground, for example," he said. "Herds are
quite tight-knit communities and don't tend to leave the area."

He added that more scientific research was needed to prove what was just
an anecdotal theory at this stage.

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