6 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Cows

Last Updated on November 13, 2022 by Jason Nguyen

Cows are not exactly the image you conjure when you think of exotic or interesting animals, but believe it or not, they are actually deeply fascinating animals and almost essential to our welfare.

There are over 800 different breeds of cows, and they are the single most common species of mammal (besides us humans, of course), so it makes sense that they often fade into the background of our lives. But there is so much more to “common” cattle than you might have thought at first, so allow yourself to be surprised at 6 very interesting facts you might not have known about cows.

Their Origin

Cows are everywhere, but have you ever given thought to where the first cows actually originated from? The answer is Turkey, believe it or not.

Our domestic cows, also called taurine cows, are the descendants of wild oxen that were known as aurochs and were domesticated for the first time in Southeast Turkey around 10,500 years ago.

There was also a second subspecies, known as zebu cattle, that was domesticated around 7,000 years ago in India. While the wild aurochs themselves went tragically extinct in 1627 due to habitat loss and overhunting, their genetics continue to live on in quite a number of descendants, such as wild yak, water buffalo, and, of course, our own gentle and slow domestic cows.

Sadly, cows are not the most resistant of animals and can quickly get very sick from diseases or even small problems like mosquitoes, ticks, or the like, which can get pretty serious without speedy and efficient treatment.

This is why you should consider taking a look at the best medicine for cow ticks and hastily helping out your bovine friends to free them of any discomfort and annoyance from small critters. It is never a bad idea to be a little extra careful, especially when your livestock’s health is at stake.

Cows Are Highly Social

Cows are actually very social animals and prefer to spend their time together. Some research has even shown that they have favorite friends and can become stressed when they are separated from each other.

When a study measuring isolation, heart rates, and cortisol levels was concluded, it was found that female cattle had lower cortisol levels and lower heart rates when they were with a preferred partner compared to when they were with a random cow.

They also thrive more when they are treated well by humans. Researchers have even found that if a cow is named and treated as an individual, she will actually produce almost 500 more pints of milk in a year, which seems simply unbelievable but can serve as another reminder to treat them gently, for a material reason as well.

They Swim Now?

Yes, cows are actually surprisingly good swimmers, as anyone who knows about them can tell you. Like many other mammals, cows take to water naturally and have very little trouble swimming to the other side of a stream, pond, or even some rivers.

Indeed, “swimming cattle” across rivers is a traditional skill that ranchers and farmers have honed over generations, allowing them to move cows between pastures or even across the country.

Even without cowboys herding them, cows will often wade into lakes and ponds to cool down and escape from all the pesky insects in the summer.

Now the obvious question is how exactly do they swim? Well, just like they walk, with their massive bodies providing them with the buoyancy needed to stay afloat and their legs acting as paddles that propel them through the water.

Cows Don’t Actually Sleep Much

Now, even though cows spend 10 to 12 hours a day lying down, most of that is merely relaxation time and not actually sleep. The average cow actually sleeps only about four hours a day, typically in short increments, so even though they are a lot bigger and heavier than us, they require only about half as much sleep as we do.

Studies have shown that, like in humans, a lack of sleep can negatively affect a cow’s health, productivity, and behavior. Cows also, unlike horses, do not sleep standing up and will always lie down before dozing off.

They Can’t See Red

cows fact

Contrary to the old adage that bulls charge when they see red, they are actually colorblind by human standards. The color does not make them angry, as they do not even have a retinal receptor that can process the red hues, so to a raging bull, a bright red cape will merely look like a dull, yellowish gray.

When a matador convinces a bull to charge, it is more likely the movement of the waving flag or the cape that elicits the savage and violent response, not the actual color red. Cows can only perceive variations of two colors, blue and yellow, and this makes them dichromatic organisms.

One Stomach, But Four Compartments

While you may have often heard that cows have four stomachs, it is not technically true. They actually possess one very big stomach, which is divided into four distinct compartments or chambers that each serve their own function.

This incredible digestive system allows the cows to efficiently process the stunning 35 to 50 pounds of hay and grass they consume on a daily basis. Cud is produced in the second part of the stomach, called the reticulum, which allows them to basically belch up and continue chewing to finish their food.

Cows are fascinating creatures, and one would think there is nothing special about them after seeing them almost anywhere where there is green, but in truth, they are so much more complex and varied than at first thought.

There is so much more we can learn about the mammals we have arguably spent the majority of our time with since we first domesticated them, from age-old idioms being disproved to the old traditions and skills of ranchers and cowboys being brought to light.

We really hope that you found this post to be quite interesting and that you now know some amazing and fascinating facts about these adorable animals that are so important to humans.


How far can a cow smell?

Some cows have been known to smell things up to six miles away!

Can cows see color?

This is a difficult question to answer definitively because there is still much that scientists do not understand about how cows perceive the world around them. However, based on what we currently know about cattle vision, it is unlikely that cows are able to see color in the same way that humans do.

Cattle have two types of color-sensitive cells in their eyes, called cones and rods. Cones are responsible for color vision, while rods are more sensitive to light and dark contrasts. Humans have three different types of cones in their eyes, which allow us to see a wide range of colors. Cattle, on the other hand, only have two types of cones, which may limit their ability to see color.

Additionally, the part of the cattle eye that is responsible for color vision (the retina) is not as well-developed as the human retina. This means that cows likely don’t see colors as vividly as we do.

What are cows afraid of?

There are a few things that cows are afraid of, including loud noises, sudden movements, and unfamiliar objects. However, the biggest thing that cows are afraid of is humans. This is because humans have been known to harm and even kill cows. As a result, cows tend to be very skittish around people.