7 Fascinating Things You Never Knew About Cows

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on May 27, 2014. Enjoy!

Cows are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive animals who are among the gentle giants of the world. Despite weighing in excess of 1,400 lbs, they have no instinct to harm and can be a wonderful companion to those lucky enough to spend time in their presence.

Despite this, the vast majority of cows spend their lives confined to dreadful conditions on factory farms where they are subjected to all manner of cruel and inhumane practices so that we can exploit their bodies for milk and meat. When confined to the stalls of a large dairy or beef farm, they are unable to exhibit their natural behaviors, and this leads to a widespread misunderstanding of their true nature.

If you’ve never taken the time to consider the complex emotional capabilities of these sentient animals before, here are seven fascinating things you never knew about cows. If you don’t believe them to be true, contact your local farm animal sanctuary and arrange to meet one in person!

1. They Leap For Joy

When cows are happy, they run around and leap into the air with excitement. Image credit: Farm Sanctuary | Connie Pugh

When cows are happy, they run around and leap into the air with excitement. There are some amazing photographs and videos of cows doing this when they are released into fresh green pasture after being kept inside for a period of time. Samuel the cow from Sanctuary Gaia did just this after he had been let into the field for the first time after an operation.

2. Cows Get Excited When They Solve Problems

Cows are critical thinkers and they are able to solve complex problems. Researchers studying their problem solving capabilities noticed a distinctive spike in their heartbeat when they were successful in overcoming challenges.Image credit: Woodstock Animal Sanctuary

Cows are critical thinkers and they are able to solve complex problems. Researchers studying their problem solving capabilities noticed a distinctive spike in their heartbeat when they were successful in overcoming challenges. They are not so different from you or me in this respect.

3. They Can Live For Up to 20 Years

When cow’s bodies are intensively used by the dairy industry, their bodies cannot cope with the demands placed on them, and their vital organs begin to deteriorate after a very short amount of time.Image credit: Farm Sanctuary

Despite the fact that cows in the meat and dairy industry often don’t live over 5 years old, their natural lifespan is in excess of four times this. When cow’s bodies are intensively used by the dairy industry, their bodies cannot cope with the demands placed on them, and their vital organs begin to deteriorate after a very short amount of time. When milk production slows, they are sent to slaughter, while they are still effectively not even adults.

4. They Remember Faces for Long Periods of Time

Cows have amazing memories, and due to their social nature they are extremely good at remembering and recognizing faces.Image credit: Farm Sanctuary

Cows have amazing memories, and due to their social nature they are extremely good at remembering and recognizing faces. There have been many instances of cows running over to greet visitors at sanctuaries who have not seen them for six months or longer, yet the cow still recognizes them and comes over for a cuddle.

5. Cows Nurse Their Calves for Up to 3 Years

When given the chance, cows have been known to nurse their calves for as long as three years.Image credit: El Hogar Pro Vegan

When given the chance, cows have been known to nurse their calves for as long as three years. They have extremely strong maternal bonds and are excellent parents to their young, with different herd members performing nurturing roles if required.

6. They Grieve for Their Loved Ones

It is common for cows to show very obvious signs of grief when a loved one is taken away from them. Image credit: El Hogar Pro Vegan

It is common for cows to show very obvious signs of grief when a loved one is taken away from them. When a calf is taken away from its mother, she will scream and cry for many hours, and will not display her usual behaviors for a long time after that. They have even been known to walk for miles on end looking for their calves, all the time displaying visible signs of stress, anger and distress.

7. They Love Cuddles and Affection

Anyone who has visited a farm animal sanctuary will tell you that cows are extremely affectionate and loving creatures. Image credit: Sanctuary Gaia

Anyone who has visited a farm animal sanctuary will tell you that cows are extremely affectionate and loving creatures. Cows who have been mistreated and abused in the past can take some time (as with all animals) to heal and learn to trust humans once more, but they do have an amazing capacity for forgiveness and understanding of the intentions of new people they meet. Cows love to lie in the sunshine and have strokes and rubs, and will happily follow around people they know are going to give them attention.

Related:
The Dairy Industry Slaughtered Half a Million Cows to Make You Pay More for Milk
5 Alternatives to Dairy Milk and Their Health Benefits

Top Photo Credit: Sanctuary Gaia

725 comments

Nellie K A
Nellie K Adaba4 months ago

Sweet

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F4 months ago

I had a beautiful Friesland cow who came for walks with me on the small holding.

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Char-anna K
Char-anna Koblick4 months ago

My Dad always called them Moo Moo Cows. Still think of them like that after 50 years.

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Past Member
Past Member 4 months ago

8. Smarter than trump.

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Mo Berg
Mo Berg4 months ago

Sadly the cattle and dairy industry would not ever want us to know that such emotions and sensitivities are possible in cows or other farm animals Sure hope that one day all humans can stop treating our animals like throw away materialistic things. Very heartbreaking to think all the pain and torture they have to endure.

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natasha s
natasha s4 months ago

All true. Love love cows+spend time with a few at a sanctuary i visit a few times every yr. Heartbreaking knowing 99% of them will only know suffering+unimaginable cruelty. And we don't even need their meat or milk.

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Debra Tate
Debra Tate4 months ago

Thank you.

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Carole R
Carole R4 months ago

Very interesting.

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Henriette M

I love cows, they are not treated very nice & also their babies are taken from them so they miss their babies tremendously! And their calves miss their mothers as well! Awful humans we are to do this to such caring cows & calves. All done for profit, nothing for these animals is kindness!

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Fred Campbell
Fred Campbell4 months ago

Enjoyed the insights.

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