You don’t need me to tell you that cows are some of the most common animals around, and certainly one of the most common livestock species kept around the world.
They keep us supplied with delicious beef and milk, and for that we should be thankful.
But you might be surprised to learn that cows actually have a lot more going on them at first glance… They’re actually really interesting animals!
To help you better appreciate these animals and also show you a little bit more about the hidden world they inhabit, I’m bringing you 23 interesting facts and bits of trivia about cows.
1. Cows Used to Travel to Provide Milk Before Refrigeration
Do you ever wonder how people delivered milk before refrigeration was a thing? It didn’t travel well, let me tell you, and for anyone who wanted to take milk over long distances, they had to take the whole cow!
It is true: either for supplying caravans and expeditions or just for transporting product to sell, the cows had to go where the people went if you wanted to have milk waiting when you got there. Really makes you appreciate refrigeration and coolers today, doesn’t it?
2. Cows’ Fur is More Like Hair
A cow’s fur is actually more like hair. Because it has no other purpose besides keeping the cows warm, if you get really technical, then it is actually short hair.
Some people say otherwise, and even some scientists at this point argue that it’s all semantics, but I think the ruling is quite clear. Cows have hair, not fur!
3. Cows Only Eat Plants, No Meat
Here’s a fact that you almost certainly already knew. Cows are herbivores, strict herbivores, and that means they eat nothing but plant matter. Or rather, they only eat plant matter alone after they wean off of their mother’s milk.
Cows will only eat grass, hay, other plants and similar foods. They don’t eat any meat of any kind or any other animal protein once they’re off milk.
4. A Cow Can Live for More than Two Decades
While it is true that most cows don’t get to live out a truly full, natural life, that doesn’t mean they don’t live a long time.
Assuming they aren’t slaughtered, culled, or die of mishap, a cow can live to be more than 20 years old. That’s two whole decades!
Pretty amazing, and all it takes is good food, a little bit of shelter, and a little bit of care, along with a few other cows to keep them company.
5. The Cow is Central to Some Cultures and Faiths
To pretty much everybody living in North America, the cow is a mere livestock animal. It is bred, born, raised, and killed with a singular purpose in mind. But this is not the case everywhere, and not for all cultures…
In some countries and to some faiths, cows are very special. In fact, they are even sacred.
For instance, to Buddhists and Hindus, cows are considered divine creatures, and it’s among the heights of disrespect, even blasphemy, to harm them, to say nothing of eating them.
6. Cows Have an Excellent Nose
For whatever reason, people just think cows are dull. That they just stand around sort of lost in space. I’m here to tell you that cows are a whole lot more aware than you might think.
Cows have very good senses, better than many other animals, and their sense of smell is particularly sharp.
Cows are capable of distinguishing more than 50 unique smells among members of the herd, including people, because you’re technically a member of their herd too.
It can also sniff out high-quality food, the location of water, and even the presence of predators.
7. Cows Have a Nearly 360-degree Field of Vision
Another interesting factoid about a cow’s vision is that they have a truly wrap-around field of view.
They actually see in a sort of super wide-screen because of the placement of their eyes on their head.
Like most prey animals, these side-located eyes help them better spot approaching predators and other threats from all sides, especially while they have lowered their heads and are eating.
But this comes with a trade-off in the form of a very narrow cone of binocular vision that can provide them with good depth perception. It sounds highly limiting, but it works for cows, trust me.
8. You Need 12 Pounds of Milk to Make 1 Gallon of Ice Cream
If we have truly one thing to thank cows for, it has to be ice cream. That delicious, sweet, creamy, cooling dessert that makes summer worthwhile.
Without milk, no ice cream, and no, I don’t count those non-dairy alternatives. Get that stuff out of here!
But, it takes a huge investment of milk to make ice cream. It takes 12 whole pounds of fresh whole milk to make just one gallon of ice cream.
9. All Cows Have a Great Memory
I hope I’ve impressed upon you already the cows are pretty intelligent, much more intelligent than most people think, but the insights don’t stop there.
Cows actually have shockingly good memories. It is thought that cows can remember many dozens of individual faces and other characteristics, using those alongside their sense of smell to identify friend and foe alike.
Your cows will remember you, specifically your face, whether you treat them well or not.
10. Cows are Surprisingly Quick
If you’ve ever watched cows plotting around in the pasture, you probably think they are sluggish, slow brutes.
Nothing could be further from the truth! When motivated to run, an adult cow is quite quick, capable of reaching a top speed of around 15 mph (24 kmh) in just a few steps.
Large and in-charge bulls can clear more than 25 mph when charging. Suffice it to say you cannot outrun a cow unless you’re a really accomplished athlete! Better have a Plan B if a cow ever starts chasing you.
11. Cows are Problem Solvers
A cow’s intelligence extends far beyond their typical, seemingly mundane existence. Aside from having a good memory and sharp senses, cows are also expert problem solvers and highly accomplished navigators.
Cows can understand and remember when they’re in familiar territory as they explore, and they use visual landmarks to navigate.
Cows can go across vast distances looking for food or water, and then find their way back home to their shelter.
And as any long-time rancher will tell you, cows are also deceptively good at figuring out how to open doors, gates, and other enclosures so they can let themselves in- or let themselves out!
12. Cows Have Sophisticated Social Skills
Once again, if you ever seen cows standing around shoulder to shoulder chewing their cud, it’s easy to think they are all just part of one big collective, more or less mindless, but this isn’t so.
Cows have a very complex society of sorts within their herd, with leaders and underlings, friends and enemies, and even manners of a sort with otherwise unruly or hostile cows still being nice to little calves.
What’s more, cows will even extend this behavior towards other species, including humans. Just another good reason for you to treat them well.
13. Did You Know Cows are Colorblind?
Cows have remarkably good eyesight when it comes to sharpness, clarity and detection of movement, but they are also colorblind like lots of other animals.
Cows specifically cannot see green or red, and those colors as well as any shades or tones of them come through as gray. Other colors will appear dimmer than we perceive them.
Nonetheless, this isn’t really an impediment to cows, and they see blue and yellow normally. But when you stop to think about it, it also means that they don’t get to enjoy the sight of beautiful green grass! To them it looks like a black-and-white photo…
14. Cows Have a Special Digestive System
You’ve probably heard a factoid that cows have four stomachs. That’s a half-myth: cows don’t have four stomachs, but they do have a stomach with four chambers.
This special digestive system is adapted to deal with a diet that is pretty much nothing but tough plant matter.
A cow has to chew, swallow, digest, regurgitate, chew and re-swallow grass in order to extract every last calorie and nutrient from it.
Their special stomach helps them do this, and it’s the only reason such big animals can continue to live on such nominally low-calorie food.
15. Cows Have All-Natural Night Vision
The vision facts on cows keep on coming, but they’re just too amazing to ignore. When you think of animals that can see good at night, what do you think about?
Cats, almost certainly, and perhaps bats. But did you know that cows have excellent all-natural night vision? It’s true, and no goggles required!
Cows see amazingly well at night, and you can ask anyone who owns them and they’ll confirm it.
Cows can find their way around at night with seemingly no impediment whatsoever, and anyone who has tried to pursue escaped cows at night knows that they always seem one step ahead of them- this is why!
16. There are Over 750 Cow Breeds on the Planet
You’ve probably seen a couple of types of cows in your life. Everyone has seen the classic black and white, and brown cows.
But there’s a whole lot more to a cow than just the color of its fur, and in fact there are more than 750 cow breeds to be found around the planet.
Many of these domestic breeds have been specially bred for the production of milk, meat or sometimes both, but they all share those same basic cow characteristics no matter where they come from.
17. There are Anywhere between 100 to 150 Steaks in a Cow
A mature healthy cow, properly butchered, will yield anywhere from 100 to 150 steaks depending on the breed. That is enough beef to fill most of a chest freezer!
18. Cows are Amazingly Strong Swimmers
If there was ever an animal that I would bet would go down like the Titanic if it got in the water, it would have to be cows.
They are just so huge and heavy, it seems impossible that they could swim. But as you’ve already guessed because I am mentioning it, the opposite has to be true, and you’d be right.
Cows are amazingly athletic swimmers with incredible endurance. Because of the water helps alleviate some of their tremendous weight, it gives it cows a real spring in their step when they are swimming, or a real spring in their stroke you might say!
19. Cow Dung is an Important Resource in Some Places
For most of us, cow dung is simply waste that we have to deal with. At best, it can be repurposed as effective fertilizer. But in various places around the world, cow patties are used for a lot more than just fertilizer.
Cow poop can be repurposed as biofuel, baked into bricks for building, and even for making paper products.
It sounds gross to us here in America, but you can’t fault people for making the best possible use of all resources, including cow poop.
20. It Takes About 10 Minutes to Milk a Cow by Hand (If you are Good!)
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to milk a cow by hand? You’ll have plenty of time to ponder that if you have cows of your own, because when they are in milk they have to be milked every single day.
The answer, if you are doing it by hand, is it will take you about 10 minutes if you’re really good and know what you’re doing.
21. Happy Cows Make the Best Milk
You’ve probably heard the marketing slogan for that happy cows make better milk. It might be a marketing slogan, but in this case it is an absolute fact. Happy cows do make better milk, and they also make more of it!
You can really dig into the biology of the subject if you want to know why, but I think it is just common sense: any living thing that’s treated kindly and kept happy will be more productive.
22. Cows Can Negotiate Staircases
Did you know that cows can go up and down stairs if they have to? You do now, and that’s not a joke! Cows, like most four-legged animals, do struggle with staircases, but they are entirely capable of negotiating them as long as they can see them.
This isn’t to say the cows want to, or will do so except in extremis, but there are plenty of recorded instances of them doing exactly that.
So much for that old urban legend that says stairs are impossible for cows to go up or down!
23. Cows Have No Upper Front Teeth
One of the strangest cow facts: they don’t have any upper teeth upfront! True story; they have lower incisors, but instead of upper teeth they have a dental pad, a tough, rubbery surface used to help hold on to food when they bite on it.
They do have upper teeth in the backs of their mouths, though!
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.