7 Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know 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 at Care2

Featured photo via Getty Images

796 comments

Sharon F
Sharon F2 days ago

Go Veg! Let the cows live (hopefully a cruelty-free life).

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Renata B
Renata B4 days ago

What these poor animals suffer because of cruel, selfish, insensitive humans is beyond words. They are routinely raped by a human (it's called bestiality) who put is hand and arm inside their vagina while they are refrained in a contraption appropriately called rape cage (!) and all their children are taken away at birth. No mother should endure that. The male babies are shot or have their throats slashed straightaway. Millions of others are killed for their flesh, sometimes heavily pregnant (sometimes they give birth of the slaughterhouse floor). If anyone who has to complain about, and criticise vegans inventing the most absurd stories beyond imagination, then they have to have the guts to say that such practices are ok for them. And no, there is no "humane" way to get the same things. By eating them you turn a beautiful, emotionally complex, sensitive individual into a mount of your poop. It can hardly get grosser.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R5 days ago

💕... Thank you for re.posting.

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Angeles Madrazo
Angeles Madrazo7 days ago

I love cows! Thank you

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Ruth S
Ruth S8 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S8 days ago

I question that many cows will nurse an offspring for 3 years. Most cows I was around weaned their calves at about 8 mos. or so. A female calf can go into heat at about 1 yr. old. So a yearling is considered an adult cow or bull/steer.

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Michael F

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Richard B
Richard B8 days ago

thank you for posting

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heather g
heather g8 days ago

Fortunately, there are many countries in the world where people love their cows and they live long, healthy lives.
Well said, Diane P.

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Diane P
Diane P8 days ago

And yet, these intelligent, gentle animals are probably the most exploited animal on the planet! There is no such thing as humane dairy. Imagine the heartbreak a mother cow experiences as her baby is taken away from her so that her milk can be consumed by someone else! The entire industry is heartbreaking. Please rethink your habits. Please--animals are not ours to wear, eat, or exploit in any other way. Please have compassion. Every one of these animals just wants to live as much as you do.

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