What the Cows Foretell

Tang Chhin Sothy?AFP/Getty Images

UNLUCKY UNGULATES: Cambodia's royal oxen ate poorly with the fate of the nation hanging in the balance

This year, the cows had no good news for Cambodia's farmers. Each year before the planting season begins, all eyes in the capital of Phnom Penh turn to a pair of hungry royal oxen for guidance. Placed before the sacred beasts are seven golden trays bearing, respectively, rice, maize, sesame, beans, rice wine, water and grass. What the cows eat—and don't eat—during the ancient Royal Plowing Ceremony predicts the upcoming year's harvest. Munching on rice is good, a signal of a bountiful crop to come. Forgoing water for rice wine could presage a drought, along with a possible surge in public...

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