Less cowbell: Study says bells harmful to cows

A Swiss Federal Institute of Technology study indicates use of cowbells could be damaging to the hearing and eating habits of the country's bovines.
By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |  Sept. 25, 2014 at 8:07 AM
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ZURICH, Switzerland, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Researchers in Zurich said the iconic cow bells worn by the country's bovines could be damaging the animals' hearing and feeding habits.

Agricultural scientist Julia Johns said she and colleague Edna Hillmann at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich studied more than 100 cows outfitted with 12-pound bells at 25 farms across the country and monitored the effects on the animals.

The researchers told newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag the bells can create noise levels of up to 113 decibels, equaling the noise made by a chain saw and exceeding the legal noise limit of 85 decibels.

Johns said thousands of cows in the country may have been made deaf by the bells, as their hearing is more sensitive than human hearing.

The researchers said they also found cows wearing the bells tended to chew cud for less time than the bovines without bells.

"But what has the greater influence -- weight or sound -- is not yet clear," Hillmann said.

Johns suggested farmers could do away with the bells and use GPS technology to locate their herd.

"In this IT age we could replace the bell with a microchip and the farmer could then locate his cattle using a smartphone," Johns said.

However, farmers criticized the report, saying the 12-pound bells are rarely used and saved for ceremonial occasions.

Swiss Tourism spokeswoman Veronique Kanel said the loss of the cowbells would come as a blow to Switzerland's image.

"It would be the end of a myth, of an image of Switzerland," she said.

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