Do Cows Think: About, What, When, Why


Image Credit: Cows lined in a farm by allispossible.org.uk (CC BY 2.0) from Flickr

From the exterior, it may seem that cows don’t get bothered by their surroundings. But that is a myth. It is entirely wrong to think that cows cannot think or they are dumb.

That being said, cows definitely can think. But for humans, it may be tough to understand what goes on in a cow’s head exactly. But if you have worked with them, the chances are high that you would understand their body language to interpret their thoughts and feelings. 

Keeping this in mind, this article has been dedicated to exploring the “thinking side of cows.” By the end of this post, we will grasp what, how, when, and why cows may think.

So, without much ado, let’s begin!

What do cows think?

This is an interesting question to think about. Undoubtedly cows are intelligent with the capacity to remember things and people. But what might go on in a cow’s head in her day-to-day life?

From the daily happenings of a cow’s life, it would not be wrong to state that most of her thoughts may be dominated by food, its offspring, etc. But, also, cows may think about activities that take place daily, like, with the sound of a farmer opening the gate, a cow may think of the milking time.

However, we cannot assert if such behavior results from cows’ thinking ability or because of conditioning. 

What do cows think about humans?

Image Credit: Cows can bond with humans by Insubria from Pixabay

It is a fact that cows do not think as we humans do. But they show their feelings towards human beings based on their experience with them. 

So, when we see a cow being friendly, it won’t be wrong to take that it thinks good and positive about humans. Similarly, in case of getting scarred or showing anger towards a human, a cow may think of their negative experience.

In this context, Carol Messina, the Director of the Goat-2-Meeting Program, has stated that while some cattle, including cows, may show friendliness to one another and are suspicious of humans, some may enjoy human touch.

Do cows recognize humans?

Again, here, we would like to state that cows are known to have a good memory. This is because they are intelligent and can remember things, situations, and individual faces.

That being said, cows recognize humans by remembering their faces. Here, we should also not forget that cows can associate humans with their activities. In other words, these intelligent animals recognize humans by linking them with past experiences and reacting accordingly.  

In the large barn or commercial settings, since cows do not get the scope to be in human association much, they tend to recognize them by their noise, smell, shape, touch, etc. 

How dumb are cows?

Image Credit: A white cow by mucahityildiz from Pixabay

Cows are versatile animals. But the problem lies in the knowledge and understanding gap between humans’ perception and cows’ actual ability to think and feel.

We say so because humans often perceive that cows are essentially dumb animals. However, it doesn’t seem right as researchers have proved that these animals are intelligent and have emotional cognition. Cows also have needs similar to that of humans, and if those are not fulfilled, they display pain, anxiety, and even aggression.

Although cows are not entirely dumb animals, they are low in intelligence when compared with animals like

  • Hores
  • Dogs
  • Pigs, etc.

What do cows feel when you milk them?

Image Credit: Cows getting milked from Hippopx

Cows are primarily domesticated for milk and meat. But what often strikes our mind is whether they feel anything when they are milked.

Well, cows don’t feel pleasure when milked as humans do when receiving a massage. Nonetheless, milking need not be a stressful event in a cow’s everyday life. If taken proper care of, cows can feel relaxed and de-stressed when milking them, as it offers pressure release from their udder.

Also, dairy cows are bred specifically to produce up to 12 times more milk than they would in the wild. So, milking them is essential to prevent injuries, which as a result, would help the cows to de-stress.

However, in the presence of loud noise and large machinery, cows may feel anxious and fear when milking. Also, if they suffer from any physical or mental trauma and illness, they may refuse to get milked. 

What do cows feel when faced with danger?

Cows are easy to get spooked. Thanks to their ability to hear even the faintest sound and the acute ability to smell. So, when they hear or sense danger, how do they feel?

Much like humans and other animals, cows also feel distressed and anxious when faced with imminent danger. And it is pretty easy to understand their feelings through their behavior. We say so because we can see cows tend to show signs of kicking, butting, or bellowing when feeling threatened. 

Other signs that cows might show when faced with dangers include:

  • Raised ears
  • Turning to sides
  • Tail flicking
  • Stamping
  • Maternal instincts, etc.

Understanding these behaviors in cows could be crucial for their owners to recognize the potential dangers. This, in turn, could enable them to remove any triggers from their immediate environment. 

What do cows feel on their way to the slaughterhouse?

Like every other animal, cows also want to live and fear death. And some of them even go to extraordinary lengths to fight for the chance to live.

We may never know what cows think exactly on their way to the slaughterhouse but can assume their exhaustion and fear by their behavior. They can feel the horror and anxiety. Cows have an excellent hearing capacity, and they are intelligent enough to understand fear, pain, and bad things going around them.

Here, we should keep in mind that although cows can remember death, they tend to forget the image and experience after a few days if not pushed to a similar situation again.

To wrap up

Despite all the research and empirical data, we may never honestly know what a cow is actually thinking. Or what goes on in their mind. But what we can do is assume what they may be feeling or thinking through their body language and gestures. 

That being said, we should never underestimate a cow’s emotional cognition. Much like other lives on the earth, cows also have feelings and perceptions, showing emotions. 

Recent Posts