10 fun facts about cows - BC SPCA
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10 fun facts about cows

July 7, 2023

Cattle (often informally called ‘cows’) are among the most common and well-known farmed animals. People who have spent time with them will likely agree that cows are valuable individuals with unique personalities. Here are ten fun facts about these intelligent animals you may not know!

1. Not all cattle are cows

Cattle are often called cows, but this is not always technically accurate! There are different terms for cattle depending on their age, sex, and reproductive status. A cow is a female that has given birth to at least one calf. Before giving birth for the first time, a female is called a heifer. Bulls are intact male cattle of any age, while steer are castrated male cattle.

2. Cows have a four-chambered stomach

Cows are ruminants, meaning they have a specialized digestive system that helps them break down grass and other vegetation that other animals are unable to eat.

3. Cows have a very strong sense of smell

Their powerful noses can detect odours up to 10 kilometres away! This helps them to navigate their complex friendships and respond to threats and other information in their environment. For example, cows can detect the scent of stress hormones present in the urine of other cows, which helps them to avoid danger!

4. Cows have incredible peripheral vision

With eyes on both sides of their heads, cows have a field of vision of almost 360 degrees… that’s about twice as much as a human’s field of vision! This panoramic vision allows cows to see in all directions without moving their heads. This way, they can always be aware of their surroundings, even when their head is down grazing.

5. Cows have individual personalities

Like humans, every cow is unique and possesses different personality traits. Common personality traits studied in cows are boldness, exploration and sociability. Some cows may be risk-takers, curious about exploring their environment, and highly sociable, whereas others may be less brave, more timid and shy.

6. Cows are very intelligent

Extensive studies have been done showing cows understand cause-effect relationships. For example, cows can think critically and solve complex problems to achieve a reward – such as food or a brush! In fact, serotonin released in their brain during these experiments shows that they enjoy these intellectual challenges and will show signs of excitement and pleasure when they solve them!

7. Cows have great memories

Cows have great spatial memory and can remember where things are located, such as water and shelter. They also can recognize and remember the faces of their herd mates! Always be nice when meeting a cow because they will remember you.

Dairy cows socializing on pasture

8. Cows experience a wide range of emotions

Cows can experience joy, frustration, fear, anxiety and sadness. Studies have revealed that cows depend on each other for emotional support. For example, cows are less stressed when handled by humans if allowed to be in physical contact with, or even just see their herd mates.

9. Cows are highly social animals and have best friends

Cows often form strong, lifelong friendships with one another. Cows will become stressed when separated from their friends or the rest of their herd. Cows help one another and learn from each other. They even groom each other to keep clean and comfortable.

10. Cows seek pleasure and love to play

Cows gallop, buck, play-fight, frolic, and chase after balls. You may have even seen videos of cows running, prancing, and jumping when outside. Playing together helps cows learn many of the social skills they need to interact with one another.

So, the next time you see cows grazing in a field, remember that there’s more to these animals than meets the eye. They’re intelligent, social, and complex animals deserving of our care and respect.

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