Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Physiology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Daily and estrous rhythmicity of body temperature in domestic cattle

Giuseppe Piccione1, Giovanni Caola1 and Roberto Refinetti2*

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento di Morfologia, Biochimica, Fisiologia e Produzioni Animali, Facoltà di Medicina Veterinaria, Università degli Studi di Messina, 98168 Messina, Italy

2 Circadian Rhythm Laboratory, University of South Carolina, Walterboro, SC 29488, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Physiology 2003, 3:7  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-3-7

Published: 28 July 2003



Rhythmicity in core body temperature has been extensively studied in humans and laboratory animals but much less in farm animals. Extending the study of rhythmicity of body temperature to farm animals is important not only from a comparative perspective but also from an economic perspective, as greater knowledge of this process can lead to improvements in livestock production practices. In this study in cattle, we investigated the maturation of the daily rhythm of body temperature in newborn calves, characterized the parameters of the daily rhythm in young cows, and studied the oscillation in body temperature associated with the estrous cycle in adult cows.


We found that the daily rhythm of body temperature is absent at birth but matures fully during the first two months of life. The mature rhythm had a mean level of 38.3°C, a range of excursion of 1.4°C, and was more robust than that of any mammalian species previously studied (90% of maximal robustness). Sexually mature cows also exhibited a robust estrous rhythm of body temperature. An elevation of about 1.3°C was observed every 21 days on the day of estrus. Small seasonal variations in this pattern were observed.


In conclusion, calves exhibit a very robust daily rhythm of body temperature, although this rhythm is absent at birth and develops during the first two months of life. Adult cows exhibit also 21-day rhythmicity in body temperature reflecting the duration of the estrous cycle.