Their report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says most cattle that were grazing or resting tended to align their bodies in a north-south direction.
And the finding held true regardless of what continent the cattle were on.
"The magnetic field of the Earth has to be considered as a factor," the scientists said.
This challenges scientists to find out why and how these animals align to the magnetic field, Begall said in an interview via e-mail.
My interest here is that many people I know (including myself) have their beds facing a certain direction (most of them North) in order to promote better sleep and health. This study also would give some merit to Feng Shui, although the science is different."At one point last year the question came up whether large animals could also sense the Earth's magnetic field or not. But of course, it is difficult, or maybe impossible, to do these studies in the lab," she said. "So, the idea arose to look for other large mammals like cattle, and Hynek Burda was fascinated when he recognized that cattle could be found on Google Earth satellite images."