Do Cows Bite: Why, When, How and Interesting Facts


When it comes to talking about cows’ teeth, it always fascinates us. Why? Because they have different teeth patterns than humans or predatory animals.

And this brings us to explore if cows can bite. Cows cannot bite if considered biting traditionally. They do not have any front teeth on their upper jawline but a dental pad. So, cows can’t dig their teeth inside humans’ or other animals’ flesh.

So, if you put your hand inside their mouth, they can nibble you, which may feel like they are biting, but in reality, it isn’t. However, do not risk yourself by putting your fingers or hand too far in a cow’s mouth, as they can really bite you with their molars. 

Therefore, it may sometimes sound confusing whether cows bite or nibble every time? And what if they get aggressive? To answer all these queries, we have brought you this article. It extensively explores the facts related to cows’ biting abilities. 

Image Credit: A cow’s mouth by Gabriel González (CC BY 2.0) from Pxhere

Do cows have sharp teeth?

Cows are herbivorous animals, which means they eat only plants and grass. And you should know that they have only a single pair of (lower) front teeth.

Cows have 32 teeth that are sharp enough to bite and chew grass and plants. That being said, you will find cows’ sharp incisors on their bottom jawline. Except for those other molars and premolars that are flat and helps in grinding the forage they eat.

Image Credit: Cow mandible by James St. John (CC BY 2.0) from Wikimedia

Do cows ever bite humans?

Most of the time, we find cows munching something or the other. But how likely is it for them to bite or chew humans?

It is absolutely unlikely for cows to bite humans. In fact, cows cannot bite like predatory animals because they do not have any upper incisor teeth. Instead, they have a dental pad which they use with their lower incisors to pull in and bite forage. 

Therefore, a cow might gum you due to the absence of upper teeth, but it won’t ever bite you. 

Will a cow bite if you put your hand too deep in its mouth?

Image Credit: Bovine Lick Beef Tongue from Maxpixel

So, cows don’t really bite you, but what if you put your hand too deep? We can’t ignore the big molars at the back of cows’ (both) jawlines.

The first thing to note is that if you put your hand in a cow’s mouth, it will use its tongue to eject your hand. However, if you put your hand in the space where there are molars, you may feel a biting sensation that hurts. This is because molars are primarily meant to grind and chew the forage cows eat.

That being said, it is advisable to take utmost care and seek the help of an expert if you need to put your hands inside a cow’s mouth. 

Can a cow show its aggression via biting?

Aggression in cows is primarily the result of fear, hormonal imbalance, mishandling, and pain. However, cows are more like prey animals and prefer to run away when feeling scared.

That being said, cows under aggression are more likely to kick, stomp or trample their victims rather than bite them. Here, one should note that cows would show aggression and react to it if they cannot run away and feel forced to defend.

Nonetheless, it is never advisable to put your hand inside a cow’s mouth when they are under any anger rage. This is because you may never know when you accidentally enter its molar teeth zone and get bitten. 

Do cows bite hard?

Cow’s biting ability is questionable since they do not have any upper incisors. Nonetheless, they can bite with their molars. So, when they bite, how hard can you feel it?

Cows don’t have the anatomy necessary for biting. But if you manage to put your hand in between their upper and lower molar teeth, they can bite you hard. Those teeth are meant for grinding and chewing. So, it is not hard to imagine that you will feel pain if they bite you with their flat molar teeth.

However, the biting mechanism of cows is different from that of predatory animals, as they do not move their teeth vertically but laterally. So, they won’t use their teeth to tear flesh but can cause abrasion. 

How strong is a cow bite?

To bite, one needs incisors, and cows don’t have them. So, if they bite or gum, how string can it get?

Well, you should only be worried about a cow’s if you stuck your hand too deep in their mouth. That being said, they can bite you pretty hard with their molars. But they can’t bite you with their dental pads and lower incisors, although their nibbling may feel stiff. 

What is a cow’s bite force?

The bite force is essentially a carnivorous and omnivorous aspect, which causes punction in the victims’ skin. And for having a reasonable bite force, an animal needs to have sharp incisors.

However, cows do not have incisors on the upper jawline, preventing them from biting others. And although they can graze approximately 890 bites per hour for about 8 hours per day, they won’t necessarily have a good bite force quotient. 

What happens if a cow bites you?

Image Credit: A black and white cow with a partially open mouth from Piqsels

Cow farms and barns sometimes can be dangerous places to work. And working with large livestock can sometimes prove detrimental.

Although cows can’t bite or won’t bite, you should be careful if you get such a wound from them. Generally, if the injury is not deep, you shouldn’t worry about it. Instead, clean it and apply antiseptic as first aid. However, a quick visit to the doctor is suggested, as one cannot rule out the possibility of infection.

Why do cows bite you?

Most animals would bite as their defense mechanism. But when it comes to prey animals, they tend to run away when feeling threatened. So why would a cow bite if it does so at all?

A cow’s bite should not be taken as their response to threats. Instead, a cow will bite accidentally only when you put your hand too deep inside their mouth. Here, it would be best if you remembered that you would need to stick in your hand deep to touch their molars to get bitten by a cow. 

In other words, what we mean is that you will never be bitten by a cow intentionally, as their teeth are not meant for any such activity. However, if a cow does not have horns and is overprotective towards its newly born calf, it may try to show a biting or nibbling tendency. 

How often do cows bite?

As stated above, cows’ teeth are made for grinding, not biting. Still, it is not very uncommon to hear the news of cow biting.

That being said, a cow wouldn’t bite you often. They are more likely to stomp or kick you when in need, but their gumming tendency could be a part of their affection towards humans or other cattle. 

It is interesting to note that cows won’t bite often, but they spend most of their time chewing cud- at least 8 hours a day.

Conclusion

So, to conclude, it can be stated that cows can’t bite, as other carnivorous or even omnivorous animals can. These animals do not need to bite food but pull their forage inside and chew them for a prolonged time. As a result, their teeth pattern is incapable of puncturing into the skin of their victims.

However, if you ever encounter a calf, you may find it sucking and chewing on almost everything. But their biting is not considered to be vicious. Still, it is advisable to be extra cautious while putting your hand inside their mouth, as their molars can grind your fingers. 

Atrayee

I am Atrayee, I have extreme passion for the Animal Kingdom and I have written a large number of articles for animal behaviors. I am an Animal Lover by nature and own two Cats.
Exploring new things through learning and unlearning is something that intrigues me a lot. I spend my free time with my husband and two cats. I must say I get to learn a lot of wise things from them! You can catch me on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrayee-samaddar-06886567/

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