How Cows Sleep: Where, Why And Exhaustive FACTs


There is a common perception that big animals like horses and cows sleep in the standing position. But is this perception correct? For example, do big animals sleep standing even when they are not taking naps?

In the case of cows, this perception is not wholly correct. Cows may doze off or take a short nap on their feet, but they definitely do not sleep (deep) on while standing. And just like humans, cows lie down when in case of REM (Rapid Eye Movement). That said, it is pretty easy for cows to stand back on their feet unless they are sick.

This is just one of the fascinating facts about cows’ sleep. Many other facts are worth exploring. So, keeping this in mind, we have presented, below, some of the most fascinating and riveting data that will help us uncover realities regarding how cows sleep. 

Therefore, without any further delay, let’s delve deep!

Image Credit: A sleeping cow by rauschenberger from Pixabay

How long do cows sleep?

Sleep is essential in terms of giving some rest to the body. So, after learning about the posture of cows’ sleep, it is now time to explore how long they sleep. 

Cows sleep for about half the amount of time that humans do. In other words, cows sleep for about 4 hours per day, which is only 16.4% of the 24 hours. Bovines also do not sleep for 3.9 hours straight; instead, they take regular naps. And cows lie down in a drowsy and quasi- awake state when not sleeping.

It was also discovered that calves do not require drowsing and sleep for longer periods than adult cows.

When do cows sleep?

Humans mostly sleep during the night, but the same cannot be stated for four-legged animals. They have different sleep patterns and timings.

Most cows spend 10- 12 hours lying down. But they only sleep for around 4 hours and drowse for the rest 8 hours. Another study found that barn cows have a diurnal sleeping schedule in this line. It means they get the majority of their sleep at night when the barn is quieter. However, they cannot sleep when activities like milking or feeding. 

Do cows face any changes in sleeping patterns?

Although you may find most cows dozing off throughout the day, the sleeping patterns may not be the same for all of them. Let’s explore.

Cows at different stages have different sleeping patterns.

  • Cows in initial and optimum lactation sleep less than cows in their dry period.
  • REM sleep is longer in lactating cows. It is essential to enhance their productivity level.
  • NREM (Non-rapid eye movement) sleep is longer in cows during their dry time because of more roughage-based diet consumption.

Do cows sleep on their feet?

There is a difference between deep sleep and taking naps. And as previously stated, the notion that most large animals solely sleep on their feet is incorrect. 

That said, it is not possible for cows to solely sleep on their feet all the time. Hence, you will mostly find cows drowsing in a standing position, which is a part of their defence mechanism. But when it comes to actual sleeping, cows prefer to lie down on the comfortable ground or cow bedding. 

Here it is essential to understand that cows mostly do not actually sleep but doze off so, we primarily find them standing still with closed eyes. And like cows, other herbivores, including horses, bison, and rhinoceros, also lie down to sleep.  

Why do cows sleep standing up?

Image Credit: Cows dozing off from Pxhere

Sleeping in the standing position is beneficial for certain animals, despite the fact that it may appear unusual. Let’s see why cows prefer to sleep standing up.

Cows take naps while standing comfortably. One of the main reasons behind doing so is to be able to run quickly to escape danger. In addition, cows, being bulky animals, finds it difficult to rise to their feet quickly from a lying position, and hence, dozing off standing is a part of their defence mechanism.

However, they lie down to avoid collapsing due to muscular atonia when they want REM sleep.

Do cows sleep at night?

We, humans primality, go into the REM sleep mode during the nighttime. But is this the same in the case of cows? Let’s explore.

Well, much like the previous answers, we would also say that cows do not sleep for a long stretch of an hour. For most of the time, they remain quasi awake and prefer to doze. And this thing continues during the nighttime as well when, rather than sleeping, they spend time relaxing and saving energy.

That being said, cows often remain pretty active, although not exceptionally, during the night as well. And if you can sneak in a barn, you may find them grazing in the dark. 

Do cows sleep with their eyes open?

Image Credit: A calf sleeping by Birds007 from Pxhere

Every animal needs to sleep to rest its body. Even domesticated ones need to rest their bodies through either a cat nap or deep sleep.

Cows sleeping with their eyes open is simply a myth. Cows, like humans, do not sleep with their eyes open. Instead, cows close both of their eyes when they sleep, and they do so to protect their eyes from bugs, dust, and other hazards.

It’s crucial to remember that cows ruminate by lying down for long periods, which might make them appear to be sleeping with their eyes open. And this could be the source of the legend. However, they do not sleep when they ruminate. And when they do sleep, they do not keep their eyes open.

Do cows sleep with their eyes closed?

Image Credit: A cow sleeping with closed eyes from Maxpixel

Although cows do not really sleep in the REM mode, when they do so, they prefer to lie down, especially during the nighttime.

That said, cows definitely sleep with their eyes closed like humans and other animals like cats, dogs, horses, and so on.

If cows sleep with their eyes open, they risk damaging their delicate eyeballs or having their eyes dry out in the breeze. As a result, the only option they have while sleeping is to close their eyes.

Where do cows sleep?

It is well expected that sleeping animals would surely have a place to lie down. So, when it comes to cows, where do they sleep?

If we consider a barn cow, it will sleep inside the barn at night. But throughout the day, it may doze off or take a nap in the field where grazing. However, if there is no barn, then cows would gather near a water source or under a tree to lie down and rest throughout the night. 

That being said, in a pasture, there is no need to create a bed for them to sleep in. But inside a barn, it would be great to make comfortable beds for them. 

Where do sea cows sleep?

Although the name may sound similar, a sea cow is anything but a cow. It is a docile marine mammal that is closely related to elephants.

Like cows, sea cows slumber about 10-12 hours a day, napping and resting. They would sleep by sinking into the sea. Manatees do not have gills for respiration underwater; therefore, they suspend themselves upside down at the surface to snooze and breathe simultaneously.

Manatees would always sleep upside down because of their absence of gills. They risk dying if they do not breathe as quickly as they need to. 

Summary

Cows are fun animals to be around with. And it is crucial to have a detailed understanding of their sleep because it can help focus on sleep-promoting or sleep-inhibiting techniques. In addition, there is a direct link between cows’ sleep patterns and their overall welfare and production ability.

Hence, providing them with the optimal scopes to rest and sleep can enhance their overall wellbeing.

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