‘They just fell’: 19 cows killed by lightning while sheltering under tree at Texas farm
In an attempt to stay dry, the group of cows sought refuge underneath a large tree at their farm, located in the town of Hallsville.
But lightning soon struck that very tree, immediately killing 19 of the cows – about one-third of the cattle in the pasture.
“All of a sudden, a lightning bolt came down and the cows just fell,” witness Victor Benson told local ABC affiliate KLTV, adding that it happened “in the blink of an eye.”
A mark is visible on the tree, showing exactly where the lightning hit.
“We kept thinking 'oh they'll get up.' Some of them were getting up and stumbling away, and I called the owner and he goes ‘No that's not normal,’” Benson said.
One of the owners, Ashley Anderson, said that although her husband has worked with cows his entire life, he has never seen such an occurrence take place.
Referring to the incident as a “freak thing,” Anderson said she and her husband don't plan on doing anything differently with their cows.
“...I mean they were just staying out of the rain. There's really, to my knowledge, nothing you can do to prevent this,” she said.
The Andersons said the cows were removed quickly after the storm, and were given to people who were able to use them for meat.
While it may seem like an extremely freakish act of Mother Nature, it's actually the second time in just days that a large number of animals have been struck and killed by lightning.
A total of 323 reindeer were discovered dead in Norway on Friday after meeting the exact same fate. Like the cows, the reindeer had also huddled together during a storm.
While the deaths are anything but ordinary, John Jensenius from the US National Weather Service said the incidents are at least explainable.
“Lightning does not strike a point, it strikes an area,” he told The New York Times. Jensenius said that while it's possible the bolt hit one or two of the Norwegian reindeer directly, most of the deaths were caused by ground current.
“The electricity would go up one leg of the body and stop the heart and go down and out another leg,” he said. “In an instant, of course.”
Although humans can be just as unlucky, such situations are more likely to happen to animals because they have four legs, and those legs are spread further apart. The greater distance between two legs means a greater chance that electricity will try to flow through them, and the greater the charge will be.
The two recent cases of animal deaths by lightning aren't the only stories of their kind to. From goats in China to bulls in Scotland, similar deaths have been reported through the years. In 2003, a single unlucky giraffe was struck and killed at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, proving that even the “happiest place on Earth” is vulnerable to Mother Nature's force.