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The bovine vote
December 28, 2015

Americans aren't the only ones who will be casting their votes in 2016; in the animal kingdom, it turns out European bison also use majority rule to make decisions.

To be fair, bison don't have primaries or an Electoral College and their voting isn't regularly scheduled in November each year. But when it comes to making decisions about travel, ecologist Amandine Ramos of the French National Center for Scientific Research discovered that bison will point their heads in the direction they want to go in order to "cast their vote."

If [bison] want to graze in a meadow, they face the meadow. If they would rather slake their thirst, they turn toward a water hole. Eventually one bison makes a move. If the initiator advances in the direction preferred by most herd members, the group follows. If the initiator chooses a less popular option, few follow, and the group might split for a brief period. Anyone can initiate a movement, although adult females typically garner the largest number of followers. In essence, the initiator with the most votes wins and ends up leading most of the herd. [Scientific American]

Ramos noted that the electoral process might not be so American after all, as bison prove that "communication and consensus are two processes that also exist in the animal kingdom." Jeva Lange

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