14 Cool Facts You Never Knew About Cows

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on April 1, 2013. Enjoy!

Cows may seem like simple creatures — most of us have seen them grazing with seemingly not a care in the world. Well, there’s more to these ruminants than meets the eye.

Here are 14 facts you probably haven’t heard about cows:

1. Most people think that cows have four stomachs. That’s actually not true. They have just one stomach with four chambers — rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. This allows them to break down tough plant matter that would normally be indigestible.

2. Cow gestation lasts the same amount of time as human pregnancy, nine months.

3. In 2009, a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of agriculture announced that they’d successfully mapped the bovine genome. The results? Cattle have about 22,000 genes, and a whopping 80 percent of those are shared with humans. Another 10 percent are shared with dogs and rodents.

4. The color red doesn’t make bulls angry. In fact, cows are red-green colorblind! In bullfights, it’s the motion of the cape that draws the bull’s attention, not the color.

5. “Moos” aren’t the only sound that cows make! Calves bawl, while bulls bellow.

6. Cows can live more than 20 years – although dairy cows rarely live that long, and cows raised for meat are lucky to exceed two years of life. If the cow has horns, you can guess its age by counting the number of rings.

7. The first cow to fly in an airplane was Elm Farm Ollie in February 1930. Incidentally, Ollie was also the first cow to be milked on an airplane.

8. The average domestic cow sleeps only about four hours a day.

9. The first cows in the Americas arrived with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage.

10. Cows drink the equivalent of a bathtub full of water each day. Hey, it takes a lot to wash down 40 pounds of food!

11. Cows can walk up a flight of stairs, but once there, they can’t walk back down. Their knees just don’t bend the right way.

12. Holstein cows may not have hands, but they have their own unique “fingerprint.” No two cows have the same set of spots!

13. There are more than 800 different breeds of cattle around the world.

14. Have you ever heard that a cow knocked over a kerosene lamp and caused the Great Chicago Fire? Well, it turns out that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was framed. In 1893, the reporter who first wrote the story admitted to fabricating the tale. A little unfair, we think.

Related stories:

Happy, Happy, Dancing Cows! (Video)

Farmers Serving Candy to Their Cows

Grass: What Cows Want to Eat

What’s with all the cow content? One wily Care2 member, Bessie the Holstein, decided cows were underrepresented and started a petition. She officially staged a successful takeover of our offices, and has redubbed us “CareMoo.”

Photo Credit: mike anderson/Unsplash


Gino C
Gino Cabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

hELEN hEARFIELD9 months ago


Marija M
Marija Mohoric10 months ago


Danuta W
Danuta W10 months ago

thank you for posting

natasha p
Past Member 11 months ago


Kelsey S
Kelsey Sabout a year ago


Craig Bovia
Craig Bovia1 years ago

The average domestic cow sleeps only about four hours a day. Sounds like me...

cameron c
cameron c1 years ago

not food!

heather g
heather g1 years ago

Wonderful animals - and what horrific lives they have to live in North American factory farms, as well as the added cruelty there and at slaughterhouses.

bob P
robert Petermann1 years ago

Thanks for sharing