So, How Fast Can Cows Run?

Have you ever seen a cow run? Me either; watching cows just standing out in a field it is thought to think otherwise.

Sure doesn’t seem like they are very agile when all they do is wander around looking for grass to chew or a nice shady tree to rest under. Plus, they’re so big they couldn’t possibly be that quick, could they?

Texas longhorn cattle
Texas longhorn cattle

Actually, can cows run it all? And just how fast can a cow run?

Cows can run, and the average adult can run between 15 mph and 17 mph (24 and 27 kmh). Some bulls can charge at more than 25 mph (40 kmh).

Well as it turns out cows are surprisingly fast, and most important for our purposes cows are faster than almost every single human being alive that isn’t participating in the Olympic trials.

Cows are huge, but they only look pudgy: they’re actually quite muscular and surprisingly athletic. If you want to learn more about the top speed of cows, keep reading.

Do Cows Always Run?

No, cows don’t always run, and in fact they try to avoid running whenever possible. With few exceptions, cows prefer to stay calm and walk or trot to get where they need to go.

This helps them conserve energy, reduces wear and tear on their joints, and greatly reduces the chances of an accident which might have fatal implications.

Cows will run, though, when they are motivated by food, trying to escape from or drive off a predator, or playing.


How Fast Do Cows Walk?

Cows do not walk very fast at all. In fact, your average person walks faster than a cow does. A typical cow will only have a walking speed of around 2 mph, or slightly quicker if it is cantering or trotting.

Do not be fooled by this “default” slow speed of cows, however: as we learned above, they can really hit the gas when they want to!

Can All Cows Run Fast?

Yes, typically. Adult cows are all quite fast assuming of course that they aren’t injured, diseased or very old.

Of course, there are many other variables besides including the individual genetics of the cow in question whatever the breed standards might have to do with it.

So while the top speed of a cow does vary somewhat, you can depend on them all being pretty fast as a rule of thumb.

Do All Cows Run at the Same Speed?

No, although the herd will generally try to match speed if they are all running together.

But concerning the individual top speeds of a given cow, the breed, overall health, nutrition, and size of the cow play a role in determining how fast they can run.

For instance, medium- and small- breed cows tend to be able to run faster compared to the huge domestic behemoths that we breed today.

Similarly, most heritage breeds of cows that are much closer to their wild ancestors tend to be more athletic, and more capable runners overall.

What Is the Fastest Breed of Cow?

This might be a surprise to you, but we don’t really know! In one of the rare scientific blunders of our era, we just don’t have that much information about the max running speed of various cow breeds and species.

This isn’t to say that we lack the technology to measure as much; far from it! But it really does turn out that it’s fairly challenging to set up an environment with measuring equipment and then get a cow going with a running start sufficient to build up to maximum speed.

Like I went into above, we have rules of thumb for figuring out which cows are faster than others, but we don’t have any reliable, hard data sets.

Are Bulls Faster than Other Cows?

As a rule, yes. You need to be on your guard around any adult cow, especially one that might start running towards you, but you’d better be very careful around bulls because they tend to be faster than all the rest.

This is because a bull is a male cow that is uncastrated, meaning he will have had the benefits of testosterone during and after his physical development. This means more muscles, greater stamina, and dramatically faster running speeds.

The degree of superiority is difficult to precisely ascertain as described above, but on average, a bull is 3 or 4 mph faster than other comparable adult cows.

That puts the typical top running speed of a bull between 18 and 21 mph! That is legitimately quick!

Could a Cow Outrun a Person?

Yes, dependably. Your typical cow can easily outrun a typical human being, even an adult in good shape.

There are outliers of course, and doubtless some people will be happy to point them out. An excellent human sprinter might easily outrun an unhealthy or unusually slow cow.

But consider this: your average adult human athlete can usually run no faster than 13 or 15 mph sprinting flat out. Most people are significantly slower than that, and that means a cow will quickly catch you!

Do Cows Chase People?

Cows can and will chase people under certain circumstances. Bulls, of course, are notoriously territorial and grumpy, and are likely to charge and then give chase if you get anywhere near them.

Similarly, although most female domestic cows are quite docile, they can prove to be just as aggressive as bulls if they have a calf they are caring for.

Always keep in mind that cows are huge, heavy and powerful animals, and you shouldn’t let your guard down even around cows that know and trust you.

How Should You React to a Charging Cow?

Your single best response to a chasing or charging cow is to get something heavy and sturdy between you and the animal, anything that could prevent it from reaching you.

It could be a fence, obviously, but you might also use a vehicle, a boulder or anything else in the immediate environment. If you are inside an enclosure with a cow and you are sure you can get on the other side of the fence or barricade, sprint for your life.

However, never, ever plan on outrunning or outlasting a cow unless you have a huge head start on it: cows are fast and they accelerate to top speed with surprising quickness.

But if you have no other choice and must try to dodge a cow, get off-line from them by making sharp turns so the cow has to adjust its course; they are fast, but they don’t turn so well.

1 thought on “So, How Fast Can Cows Run?”

  1. We recently had the “pleasure” of having to run the cows up to the barn to be sold after the passing of my Father-in-Law. These cows never go to the barn from the back field until the fall so they were, understandably, confused.
    We had a tractor and two ATVs trying to run the cows up but we had the additional challenge of having bush at the very back so the cows were in the bush, in the field, in the bush, in the field (repeat until you are sunburnt and frustrated).
    Holy! I NEVER knew these ladies could run so fast that they were outrunning the ATVs! (Yes, we eventually got them up and off to auction). So yep, cows can run FAST! Thankfully, the bull had already been shipped lol

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