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Sometimes, on the first day or so in Minecraft, when I'm obsessed about killing mobs for food, I find that, at night, animals tend to flock towards light sources

For example, day 1, I built a house on the beach, and set up a couple of torches. I went outside, and there were some animals that were making their way towards the torches, and spent the rest of the night around them.

Was this by chance? Or are there factors (besides Wheat) that determines where animals move towards?

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Yes, animals are kind of attracted by light (moving behavior).

Animals are attracted to both light and grass. If there is a lot of grass nearby, they will wander toward it regardless of light level. If they are completely surrounded by grass, they will wander aimlessly. If they can't see any grass, they will wander toward light.

Source: http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Animal

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Animals are not attracted to light. If you have not explored a biome yet, there is a one in ten chance that animals will spawn in the new chunks you discovered, and it does not matter if there is light or not. However, for animals to spawn on chunks of the biome that have already been discovered, there must be a light level of 9, and be on blocks with grass http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Spawn#Animal_spawning. This gives the feeling that animals are attracted to light, though in reality they just happen to be spawning there.

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    Light does have some effect on mobs wandering: normally they try to stay on grass, but if there are no nearby grass blocks, animals will tend to go to brighter areas. – Kcats Oct 22 '12 at 7:31
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Each animal has slightly different pathing. Most will go towards grass and light and if surrounded by grass will wander aimlessly, but have different water and attack avoidance. Wolves will chase other passive mobs and kill them. Mooshrooms like mycelium instead of grass.

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