This cow is not watching you – he has eyes painted on his butt. This is a kind of artificial automimicry, which the Oxford dictionary defines as:
“The mimicking or accentuation of some characteristic of one’s own species as an adaptive response.“
This is a great use of Principle 26 – Copying, since it deters predatory lions who are tricked into believing their advance is being observed.
Some fish have evolved to use a similar defense, displaying what look like eyes on their hind quarters.
Made ya flinch!
This Principle also finds utility in the military world, where some fighter jets have false canopies painted onto the bottom of their fuselages. In a heated dogfight, the impression that an opponent’s plane is veering toward you instead of away could give away a split second advantage.
Some stores, banks and the like will have more security cameras on display than actually function to deter bad behavior.
Does it work?
It’s unclear. The stats are good for the cows with the eyes on their butts, but the trial only painted the eyes on a fraction of the cows. If all the cows were so adorned, my assumption is that a hungry enough lion would take a chance, be rewarded and learn to be more discerning about which end of the cow he is looking at, false eyes or not.
What is clear is that any innovation can only give a competitive advantage for so long, before opponents copy it or defeat it with their own.
Never stop innovating.