Cows are mammals. This is because they are warm-blooded and they feed their young with milk produced in their mammary glands. Cows have four mammary glands, which are found inside their udders.
In this article, we’ll look at what makes an animal a mammal and how that compares to cows, learn what category of mammal cows fall into, and look at how cows compare to other large mammal species.
Are Cows Mammals (Yes or No?)
Yes, cows are definitely mammals, just like horses, elephants, and humans.
What Makes Cows Mammals?
Cows are mammals because they have mammary glands (their udders) which they use to produce milk and feed their young, and because they are warm blooded.
Aside from this, there are a few characteristics that all mammals share:
Characteristics of All Mammals:
- All female mammals have mammary glands. These glands are used to produce milk to feed their young. In cows, this is their udders.
- All mammals have larger and more complex brains than their reptile and avian counterparts. Cows have large brains, although not as large or heavy as human brains.
- Most mammals give birth to live young. (With the only exception being platypuses, who lay eggs). Cows give birth to live calves.
- Most mammals are covered in fur or hair. Obviously, cows meet this criteria!
As you can see, cows check all of these boxes and are definitely mammals.
Are All Cows Mammals?
There are two main species of cow in the world today, the Asian Cow (Bos Indicus) and the European Cow (Bos Taurus). Both species have hundreds of different breeds, which have been selected over time for their milk, meat, or draught ability.
Read More: How much meat comes from one cow?
Every breed of cow belongs to the Bovine family of animals, all of which are mammals.
Even the most exotic species of cattle such as water buffalo are still mammals.
What Type of Mammals Are Cows?
Cows are Placental Mammals, which means they develop a placenta and give birth to live young.
A placenta is a special organ which only exists during pregnancy, which allows the cow to provide nutrients directly to her calf, and prolongs the gestation period.
Placental mammals are characterized by their highly developed young at their time of birth, and their live births.
Most mammals are placental mammals, with a few small exceptions which we’ll look at below.
What Other Types of Mammals Are There?
Aside from placental mammals, there are two other types of mammals, which don’t give birth in the same way. These mammals are called Monotremes, who give birth to an egg, and Marsupials, who store their young in their pouches.
Mammal types explained:
|Type of Mammal||Example Animals||Description|
|Placental Mammal||Cow, Horse, Human||Placental mammals develop a placenta during pregnancy, and give birth to live young. (Human beings are placental mammals)|
|Monotremes||Platypus, Echidna (Anteaters)||Monotremes are unique to the mammalian world, because they give birth to eggs. There are very few Monotreme species, the most well known is the Duck-Billed Platypus.|
|Marsupial Mammal||Kangaroo, Wallaby||Marsupials have a unique pouch on their fronts, which serves as a kind of semi-placenta for their young. Marsupials give birth to less developed young than placental mammals.|
Are Cows Placental Mammals?
Yes, cows are placental mammals. Cows develop a placenta during pregnancy and give birth to well-developed, live young just like horses, goats, human beings, and other placental mammals.
The placenta allows the cow to transfer nutrients to their unborn calves, and is a temporary organ which only exists while the cow is pregnant. (It is usually expelled shortly after the birth of the calf)
Are Cows Marsupials?
Marsupials are characterized by their unique pouch, which is used in a similar way to a placenta, but with less protection and a much shorter gestation period.
Cows are not marsupials, cows are placental mammals since they don’t have pouches, and instead develop a placenta during pregnancy and give birth to highly developed live young.
Are Cows Monotreme Mammals?
Cows are not monotreme mammals. Monotreme animals give birth to eggs, and include species such as the Duck-Billed Platypus. Cows are placental mammals, since they give birth to live young.
Are Cows The Largest Mammals?
Cows are definitely pretty large, but they aren’t even close to being the largest mammal overall, or even the largest land mammal.
The largest land mammal is the African Elephant, which can weigh a whopping 7 tonnes or 15,000 lbs.
By contrast, the average cow weighs around 1,200 lbs (600kg).
The largest mammal overall is the Blue Whale, which can weigh up to 200 tonnes, or 400,000 lbs. That’s more than 300 times heavier than an average cow!
What Mammals Are Larger Than Cows?
There are many large mammals which are larger than cows, both land dwelling mammals like rhinoceroses and elephants, and aquatic mammals like whales, and seals.
The average cow weighs around 1,200lbs. Here are some other mammals which can be larger than cows:
- Manatees (Sea Cows)
- Almost Every Whale Species
- Orca (Dolphins)
Cows are definitely mammals, because they meet the definition of mammalian species, having mammary glands to feed their young, giving birth to live young, having a covering of fur or body hair, and being warm blooded.
Cows are placental mammals (just like human beings) since they have a long gestation period in which their calf develops in their uterus.
Aside from placental mammals, there are two other types of mammals, called Marsupials, and Monotremes. Marsupials protect their young with a pouch (Kangaroos) and Monotremes give birth to eggs (Platypus). Cows are neither marsupial mammals, nor monotremes.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.