You always hear stories of how animals are tricked by a full solar eclipse. They think night is coming and alter their behavior, heading back to the barn or bedding down in place to go to sleep. It sounds neat but not entirely believable. Are they really that easily fooled? With a looming 99% eclipse and a farm loaded with various types of livestock, it was time to find out.
An hour before peak eclipse, the sky was dimming and the animals began to work their way toward the upper pastures. At this time of the day, 1:30 PM, the sheep, goats, horse, chickens and livestock dogs should be in the lower pastures, around the bend and out of sight. The above photo is a scene typical of 7:30 in the evening, not early afternoon.
45 minutes later the height of the eclipse was almost upon us and every single animal was in the barn pasture where they’re typically locked in for the night. Very unusual. At this point everything took on an otherworldly shade of dark. The best way to describe the scene is as if you were wearing a too-dark pair of sunglasses, but were unable to remove them from your face. Like an underexposed photo in real time.
By 2:30 PM the eclipse was peaking. At 99% it looked like a solar Cheshire Cat smile, without the glowing eyes. It was beautiful and fun to walk around in an altered-looking landscape. Without a doubt the animals were acting strangely. Some of the goats and sheep were laying on the ground chewing their cud. A few grazed and the rest walked around looking lost. And sure enough every single chicken was back at the coop and several began to roost! The rooster didn’t crow however, not even once.
Everything fell silent and the songbirds ceased their singing. Cicadas and other late summer insects were also mute. Then the first crickets began to chirp, followed by a chorus of bullfrogs from the pond…sounds only heard at night. The temperature dropped 5 degrees.
Foraging bees stopped returning to the hives. Normally you keep a good 20 feet between yourself and the hives just to avoid any complications. Normally considered an act of insanity, I was able to place my bare face inches away from the meanest hive without worry. Half of the bees in the above photo were swaying back and forth in almost perfect synchronization. An eclipse dance perhaps? I’ll never know for sure.
One of the dogs expressed a wish to view the eclipse but lacking thumbs, was unable to properly place the eye protector on his head. Here you go my friend, we’re more than happy to help with that.
20 minutes later things started to noticeably brighten and everyone began the slow walk back down to the lower pasture like it was morning. So yes, animals are indeed fooled by the eclipse. Not exactly a scientific observation but it was still fun to watch.