The barnyard, it seems, is full of surprises.

Just a few weeks ago, we learned that at least one filmmaker found sheep interesting enough to cast them as the villains in a movie.

Today, we learn that cows can have regional accents.

Yes, you read that correctly. Moo could also be moue (French), mu (Greek), or mo’ (American), depending on where the cow lives.

Researchers discovered the phenomenon after being alerted to the possibility by farmers in Somerset, England. The dairy farmers noticed their cows had slightly different moos, depending on which herd they came from.

Farmer Lloyd Green from Glastonbury is quoted as saying, “I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl.

This proves three things:

1) If you’re noticing slight differences in moos, it’s possible you’re spending a little *too* much time with the cows.

2) Point (1) might explain why I keep seeing stories in the news about English farmers turning to rural dating services to find mates.

3) We really have a lot to learn about animal behaviour.

As to that last point, if Glastonbury farmers noticed their cattle had a drawl, then it begs the question as to how many other regional cow accents there are, particularly within the British Isles. What of cattle born and raised within earshot of Bows Bells — do they have a Cowkney accent? Does an Aberdeen Angus sound Geordie or Glaswegian? Does a Welsh cow moo using mostly consonants (mlyoffodydooo)?

Does a cow’s accent have any affect as to how well it gets along with its peers? Imagine a cow brought from the Liverpool area into a herd where only crisp BBC-style or royal accents were acceptable.

MARGARET: Oh deah. That new import really is a terrible ‘Scouse for a cow, isn’t she?
ELIZABETH: Ahahaha, too funny, dahling! I expect the poor dear was brought up in a barn. Tsk.

We’ve known for a long time that animals have distinct social orders and ranking systems, but what is not known is how much of that is dependent on accent. Are cattle class conscious? Is there a correlation between Grade A beef and a plummy accent? Can a cow climb the local social ladder by carefully duplicating the speech patterns of the lead bull?

Indeed, the discovery raises so many questions I can see it becoming the basis for many an obscure dissertation. For instance:

* Diction And Elocution; A Comparison Between Chinese Northern Yellow And Chinese Southern Yellow Cattle

* A Study of Idiomatic Preferences Amongst Charolais

* The Effect of Herd Numbers on Pressure to Conform to Local Language Styles

* Successful Cattle Integration in Finishing Operations: Is Dialect a Moo-t Point?

Of course, the phenomenon may not be relegated to cattle. We already know that songbirds have localized versions of their calls, but what about pigs? Do Australian pigs say oynk? Sheep? You say tomayto, I say tomahto. Your sheep says baa, my sheep says bawh. And what of rodents? Perhaps there really are country mice and city mice after all.

And speaking of children’s stories, that brings me to one last question.

Perhaps Mr. Brown can moo. But can he moo with the right *accent?*


Photo credit: “Hairy and curious bull” by D’Arcy Norman – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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