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Animals, Quakes and Other Disasters

Updated on October 6, 2011

Ancient Greeks were perhaps one of the first civilizations to observe and record strange animal behavior in advance of a natural disaster. A document dating back over 2,000 years describes strange behavior of various animals immediately before an earthquake destroyed a city. It gave a report of snakes and rats leaving the area, somehow instinctively knowing imminent doom was pending.

To date, the scientific community has no rock solid explanations as to how they seemingly have a 6th sense in this regard. But, most experts agree animal’s have an increased sensitivity to geological vibrations, electromagnetic disturbances and changes in atmospheric pressure.

The most often observed animals are of course domesticated farm animals and pets. Researchers have compiled reports of chickens not laying eggs, bees leaving their hives and cows unable to give milk, all shortly before a natural disaster has hit. They apparently know when tornados, tsunamis, hurricanes or earthquakes will occur.

Each species of animal has their own unique reactions. For instance, cats and dogs will normally react with anti social behavior. Cats may seek shelter and move their litters to a place of safety. Dogs on the other hand might howl, tremble or even bite their owners.

Many researchers believe animal sensory perception is much higher than humans. Dogs, for example have olfactory senses vastly superior to people. It is believed this gives them the ability to smell changes in the air before a storm or earthquake.

However, many other types of animals have displayed strange behavior:

· Sharks will move to deeper water before a hurricane.

· Elephants moved to higher ground before the 2005 tsunami devastated Thailand.

· Birds will abandon their nests. And before a rain they will get quiet.

· Bears and deer will also head for higher ground.

· In some countries people know when the weather is about to change by observing beetles and other insects.

· Cows will normally lie down and stay close together before a thunderstorm.

· Ants will build their mounds with steeper sides before a rain.

Some theorize creatures feel the Earth vibrate or detect gasses released from the Earth. So, there is evidence suggesting animals have senses allowing them to “predict” impending natural disasters. Some for instance, may be able to “hear” sounds produced by natural phenomena man can’t. Some say animals are also extremely sensitive to electromagnetic field fluctuations and some react to changes in electrical currents. One geophysicist reportedly monitors a catfish, which are extremely sensitive, to predict a coming disaster.

Many people report a substantial increase of barking dogs prior to an earthquake. However, seismologists can’t accept that as proof dogs can predict natural disasters. Another such unacceptable explanation is there is always an increase in missing pets around earthquake prone areas. But, again there are no compiled studies to support the theory.

Still using dogs as an example, there are numerous tales of canines finding their way home from hundreds of miles away. And dogs are extensively used in search and rescue operations in the wake of a natural disaster to locate bodies.

These animal attributes are something scientists are still researching in the hopes of benefiting mankind. Why? There have been several occasions where authorities have forecast an earthquake by observing the behavior of animals. In 1975 Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng just days before a massive earthquake. Only a small fraction of the 1 million plus population was hurt or killed. Authorities estimated the number of fatalities and injuries could have been substantially higher if animals hadn’t tipped the city officials off.


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    • Abby Lysach profile image

      Abby Lysach 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      hmm... interesting. I remember when I saw a lot of birds suddenly flying away from the trees, and after that we all felt tremors that made everyone get panic. It was an earthquake... Thanks for this interesting hub... We are going to be more sympathetic about the changing attitudes of the animals that surround us. Thumbs up! :-)

    • Drjacki profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I can independently confirm that my dog predicts impending storms...he goes to hide under the bed BEFORE there is any overt indication that humans can see! Thanks for this very well-written and interesting hub!

    • iamsergell profile image

      Lord Sergell of House Stark 

      7 years ago from Darwin, Australia

      voted up and very interesting. i guess, it's been long known that animals really do have these unique characteristics. its really amazing how these animals detect such as been described in your article. anyway, very nice to read. bravo :)


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