World of Whorls!



So a while back someone once told me that you can predict the temperament of cattle by categorizing the swirls on their faces. I of course thought this was hog wash. Well turns out the might be something to it.

Recently I came across an article that spoke of this intriguing theory. Apparently the original idea and study came from Dr. Temple Grandin, who is considered a genius when it comes to cattle. I have read some of her research (very small amount, I don’t have that much time!) and have come to the conclusion that she is one smart cookie.

After reading the article I thought it would be interesting to test this out on some of our cows. Now don’t think I went crazy or anything checking out all our cows. No way! I just went to the closest pasture, drove around and took pictures of a sample group of cows. (Sorry, you will have to excuse me but today’s photography was not exceptional. 😬) The process took longer than expected, as you can imagine they are not trained to look at the camera, though maybe I should look into that to make things a bit easier for me, jk.


The whirl or swirl as I keep calling it is different on every cow, kind of like a finger print. They might be more towards the top of the head. This should suggest more aggressive behavior. If the swirl is below the eyes, this should indicate a more calm animal. If a whorl is weirdly shaped or of the center line, that could also indicate a more agitatable animal. Animals without whorls or swirls are supposed to be more unpredictable and aggressive.

I also found it super crazy that the direction of the whorl can also indicate a dominant side in the animal, meaning right hoove-ness or left-hoove-ness.

I took some notes and headed out to the pasture to test the theory. Of course I went to the closest pasture out of convinence but also because I know these girls better than any of the others. I picked random animals stopped when I got to 15. I figured that was a good enough pool, not to mention I started loosing track of who I had shot and who I hadn’t.

The Better temperaments:

Penny is by far our sweetest girl her on the ranch. She has no whorl or swirl anywhere to be found on her face. According to the theory she should be aggressive so that started me off as a none believer. Cynthia and Miss Ellie have double whorls that are not perfect, but they are low and in the middle which indicate calmness and they are. Courtney, Bubble and Cowbella are all very nice to work with. They each have swirls close to the middle or slightly below so they fall into the calmness category where they belong.

Bull Temperament:


Ten Speed’s whorl is spot on for his behavior. He is a very well behaved and kind animal. Low and in the middle! I didn’t read into it but I have also heard that some ranchers believe you can tell the sperm count and viability from the whorls! How crazy is that!

Decent Temperaments:

Tundra has a double swirl more in the middle and Orange’s is also in the middle. These two seem to fit the model as they are kind of on the fence, a bit more skidish at times but still very good to work with. Cowgirl and Kath are both decent to work with but their whorls sit a bit higher indicating they should be more aggressive than they are.

Calving Temperaments:

Each of these girls swirls are sitting right in the middle or a bit above the eye. Lady, Lady Di, Blanche and Betty Sue are all fine to work with but can be aggressive when they are finished calving, aka very protective mothers. Once the calf is a bit older they mellow out again. I think they all fit the theory pretty well.

Aggressive Temperaments:


Of the random 15 I picked from there is really only one who I would consider aggressive. She not that bad, most of our cows are pretty calm in the grand scope of cattle. But Toowie is a kicker. She likes to kick, but only certain people. For instance she has never kicked or kicked at me, but I am very cautious when it comes to being in with the cows. She has never kicked Jason, but has kicked at him. As for poor Russ, well we are pretty sure she has it out for him. I’m not sure what the total is now, but she has kicked him more times than any other cow in the farm. He wants her gone, but we keep her around. She is a good mama… we just have to keep her away from him. Her swirl is low, but very unusual and very off center indicating a more excitable animal. Seems right to me.

Of the 15 ladies and 1 bull I would say that 9 of the whorls were right, 4 were off, and 3 would be “kind-ofs.” That is pretty good! As for the right or left hoove-ness, well 9 of them were stepping with their swirl foot first, 3 with the opposite and 4  of them I couldn’t really tell.

As I first set out on this small little adventure to test Grandin’s theory I thought it was pretty silly as did Jason. Though I must say we were both a bit intrigued too. Now that I have observed more and marked it all down I do think their might be something to this! Crazy as it sounds, dams and sires do pass on traits to their young ones. So in theory it would make sense that when you try to breed docility into a cow family the looks would also coincide. I may have to read deeper into this and perhaps test another pasture in the future. Heck, maybe I’ll look into the bull theory too, but for now I’ll have wait for winter when things calm down a bit around here. This would be good stuff for a blizzard day, maybe I’ll test the theory on people “cow-licks” too! Haha 🤣


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