Speed Reads

no more cowbell

Study: Cowbells could be hurting cows' ears

A recent study suggests that for cows' hearing, the only prescription is less cowbell.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich found that the cowbells worn by Swiss cows could damage their hearing, and the bells also affected their eating habits. The researchers studied more than 100 cows who wore 12-pound cowbells, and they looked at cows across 25 farms in Switzerland. They found the bells could eventually lead to deafness.

The cowbells create noise levels of 100 to 113 decibels, which is roughly equivalent to the noise level of a jackhammer. The legal sound limit in Switzerland, meanwhile, is just 85 decibels. And in addition to hearing damage, the cows who wore cowbells chewed their food for less time than the cows who didn't wear cowbells, according to Germany's Schweiz Am Sonntag. The research did not determine, however, whether the weight or the sound of the bells was responsible for the changes in the cows' habits.

Cowbells are used to track cows who have escaped from farms. Some farmers expressed concern that replacing the cowbells with GPS chips, as one of the researchers suggests, could harm Switzerland's image, since cowbells are a symbol of Swiss heritage.