Yes, you can ride a cow. Though it’s not too common in the developed world any more, cows are regularly still used in Asia for transporting both people and cargo, and for pulling heavy farming equipment.
In this article we’ll learn more about riding cows, what type of cows are suitable for riding, and look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of riding cows compared to other animals.
Is it Possible to Ride a Cow?
It is possible to ride cows. Humans have been using cows to transport people and cargo for thousands of years.
Cows which are bred and trained for riding and working are called Oxen. Oxen are usually male cattle who have been castrated to make them easier to control. Oxen are commonly used by farmers in the developing world to help increase their productivity without having to buy expensive machinery.
What Types of Cows Can You Ride?
Many types of bovine cattle can be used for riding, hauling, and working the land, though cows are rarely used for this purpose in developed countries due to their inefficiency compared to machinery.
Typically there are two broad bovine subspecies of cattle. These are Zebu cattle, which originate in South Asia, and Taurine cattle, which are the cattle we see in most of Europe and North America.
Zebu cattle are most often used for transporting people, simply because using cattle as oxen for transport is much more common in the parts of the world where Zebu cattle are found.
Can You Ride Highland Cows?
Highland cows look fierce with their large horns and unusual orange fur, however as far as cows go they are actually a docile and friendly breed.
While they are typically not used for riding or farm work, their docile and placid nature means with enough training they can get used to riding, and there are some farms that offer the chance for children to ride them.
Can You Ride Dairy Cows?
Dairy cows are not specifically bred for riding and may lack the strength required to work the fields or carry people. In some parts of the developing world, male dairy cattle are castrated and used as oxen to help with farming and transport but this is uncommon the west, where male dairy cattle are instead sold for veal.
Dairy cows tend to have more pronounced spines than beef cattle, which would make riding uncomfortable.
Where Can I Ride a Cow?
Cows are rarely used for riding or transport in Europe or North America, however there are a few select farms who offer cattle-riding experiences as a unique vacation idea.
One example is Bolderhof Farm in the Swiss Alps, who made a splash when they began offering cow riding treks to tourists in 2017.
Can You Ride a Cow Like a Horse?
You can ride a cow, but the experience is quite different compared to riding a horse.
Like horses, cows need to be trained to know how to handle a rider safely, and specific breeds are more useful for transport due to selective breeding to select for strength and endurance.
If you can already ride a horse, you will take to cow riding without too much training, but the reverse isn’t always true as cows tend to be easier to get to grips with than horses.
Riding Cows vs Riding Horses
Cows have some unique advantages and disadvantages compared to other domesticated animals like horses.
Pros and Cons of Riding Cows Compared to Horses:
Advantages of Riding Cows:
- Cows are more hardy than horses and are better able to deal with small injuries.
- Cows can handle steeper terrain than horses due to their lower center of gravity.
- Cows are easier to ride than horses, due to increased stability and slower speed.
- Cows have better endurance than horses, although they move slower.
Disadvantages of Riding Cows:
- Cows are slower and less agile than horses.
- Cows can not deal with rivers or other obstacles as well as horses.
- Cows’ horns can be dangerous if they get angry or scared
- Cows are prey animals and can become scared easily.
Why Don’t People Ride Cows?
In Europe and North America, cows (Oxen) were widely used for transport and agriculture up until the early 1800s, when large scale agriculture and the industrial revolution led to the widespread adoption of horses and tractors, which could pull new heavy farming machinery faster and more reliably.
Although we don’t ride cows much in the west any more, oxen are still used in India and South Asia, where the smaller field sizes and hilly terrain is more suited for oxen.
In the western world, cows are generally more useful as a food source than as an agricultural helper.
Can Cows Carry People?
Yes, cows can be used to carry people. Cows bred and trained for this purpose are called Oxen and were quite common until around the year 1800 in the west, although today it’s more common in South Asia.
Can You Tame a Bull to Ride Them?
Cows are emotional creatures and with training they can become tame enough for people to ride them, though generally bulls are not the best option for this because they tend to be more aggressive and harder to control.
A better option is to train a castrated male cow, known as a steer. Steers are more docile, easier to train, and less aggressive than their bull counterparts and are better for riding.
It’s definitely possible to ride cows, though it’s no longer common in the western world.
Cows are still commonly used for transport and agriculture in parts of Asia, where they are used for farming, and for transporting people and cargo. Cows which are used for transport or farming are called Oxen.
The best type of cow for riding is a male cow who has been castrated, known as a steer. This is because steers are calmer and more readily trained than an intact bull.
Although riding cows is possible and there are some niche farms which offer treks and expeditions on cows, there are some disadvantages compared to horses which means horses are often favored over cows for transporting people.
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.