Dark brown cow looking to camera

What’s in that Cowpat?

Dr Ed Turner dissecting a cowpat

Have you ever walked through Coe Fen or on Midsummer Common in Cambridge, looked at the cowpats and wondered what lived inside? Well now is your chance to find out! For Zoology Live 2021, we are launching Cowpats About Cambridge (and beyond). Inspired by the Cows About Cambridge sculpture trail, we are asking you to help us collect data on the animals living in cowpats. Join our Curator of Insects Dr Ed Turner as he explains how to do it.

Please note that our Cowpats About Cambridge prize draw has now ended. You can still explore cowpats near you and let us know what you find! Share these with us to feature in our Community Gallery. Find out how below:

How to dissect a cowpat

Cowpat close up
Cowpat with a crust but soft underneath

To dissect a cowpat, you will need:

  • A pair of gloves
  • A trowl and/or a spoon
  • A pot to put your insect finds
  • Paper towels and hand sanitiser – and remember to wash your hands when you are able to

Choose a cowpat that is a couple of days old – you don’t want it to be dry and hard, but you also want it to have had time to be colonised by insects. Find a cowpat with a bit of a crust but soft underneath. Take a photo and make a note of where it is.

Use a trowl or spoon to lift up the end of the cowpat, then gently use your fingers or forceps to pick out insects. Gently move look through the dung to see how many dung beetles you can find.

Count how many beetles you find and how many different types there are, then take photos or your finds.

Upload your photos and data to our google form below. Add your name and email address to be entered into the Cowpats About Cambridge (and beyond) prize draw to win a wildlife explorer kit. Competition closes at midnight on Sunday 5 September 2021.

Delightful Dung

Have you enjoyed exploring the biodiversity supported by cowpats? Want to find out more about dung in the University of Cambridge Museums? Many of the collections hold objects or conduct research featuring poop. Here are just a few.

And to tie in with Zoology Live 2021, the Fitzwilliam Museum have put together a special Look, Think, Do activity based around their amazing scarab beetles and what they meant to the ancient Egyptians:

Cows About Cambridge

Cows About Cambridge 2021 logo

Cowpats About Cambridge (and beyond) was inspired by the Cows About Cambridge sculpture trail taking place across the city this summer. At the Museum of Zoology we are hosting not a cow but a Moostery sculture as part of the trail. Here’s a sneak peak just for you:

Visiting the Museum? Why not pick up or download our new trail: Is there something on my face?

3 thoughts on “What’s in that Cowpat?

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