All breeds of cows can have udders, but visible udders are only present in female cows who are either pregnant or have already had a calf.
In this article we’ll be exploring the topic of cow udders to learn which types of cows can have udders and why, and dispelling some incorrect but commonly held views about these strange but fascinating organs.
What Type of Cows Have Udders?
Every breed of cow can have udders, but only specific cows within each breed will have visible udders, depending on whether or not they have had calves before.
All female cattle have visible teats, but only cows who have given birth to at least one calf, or are pregnant with a calf on the way will have visible udders.
In farming, we divide cattle into different categories, depending on their gender and reproductive state.
Though there are countless further subdivisions we can make and different names in different parts of the world, there are broadly six categories of cattle when it comes to udders.
These are: Heifers, Cows, Steers, Bulls, Springers, and Freemartins.
Of this group, only Cows and Springers have visible udders, although Cows, Springers, Heifers, and Freemartins will all have visible teats.
|Category||Description||Visible Teats||Visible Udders|
|Cow||Female cattle who have had at least one calf.||Yes||Yes|
|Heifer||Female cattle with no calves.||Yes||No|
|Steer||Castrated male cattle.||No||No|
|Bull||Intact (non-castrated) male cattle.||No||No|
|Springer||Heifer or Cow who is currently pregnant.||Yes||Yes|
|Freemartin||Infertile female cattle.||Yes||No|
Why do Some Cows not Have Udders?
Like all mammals, cows produce milk for their young from their mammary glands. Female cows produce milk which is stored in their udders and used to feed their calves.
Some cows don’t have udders because they have never had calves, so their udders have never developed. This is the case for young cows who have not yet had a calf, and for male cattle who can not have calves.
Do Non-Dairy Cows Have Udders?
Although we often think of udders in terms of milk production for human consumption, it’s important to remember that udders are designed to feed cow calves and not humans.
Cows only produce milk when they have a calf to feed, so dairy cows are kept in a perpetual state of pregnancy to ensure that they can keep producing milk for about 10 months of the year.
Non dairy cows usually don’t have udders, simply because male beef cattle are usually castrated so there is no opportunity for a beef cow to become pregnant, and thus no cause for their udders to develop.
If a non dairy cow were to become pregnant, their udders would become visible just like a dairy cow, however farmers usually try to avoid this because it costs them a lot of money to feed and nurture a young calf.
Do Male Cows Have Udders?
Male cows are called bulls or steers, and they can not have udders. Udders are only used for producing milk and feeding calves, which is only possible for female cows.
Do Male Cows Have Nipples?
All bulls have nipples, however their nipples are not prominent like the teats of a female cow and can be difficult to see, since they do not have udders.
Bulls’ nipples are found near their hind legs, in roughly the same position as udders on a female cow.
Do Highland Cows have Udders?
Highland cows (also known as Hebridean cows) can have udders just like any other breed of cow, however they are usually raised for meat due to their low milk production and thus are rarely seen with udders.
Another reason highland cows are often thought not to have udders is that their long fur drops down below their bellies, hiding the udder even when it is present.
Do Baby Cows Have Udders?
Baby cows, known as calves, do not have udders. Since they can not have calves themselves, they have no need for udders.
Young female cows (known as heifers) do not have udders until they are pregnant with their first calf, which can’t happen until they reach puberty.
Most cows reach puberty at around 12 to 14 months, after which point they become fertile and are able to become pregnant and develop udders. Baby cows and cows who have never had a calf do not develop udders.
Do All Cows Have the Same Number of Udders?
All cows have one udder, which is split in to four separate compartments, each containing a separate store of milk.
Why do Cows Have Four Udders?
It’s a common misconception that cows have four udders. In fact, cows only have one udder, but each udder is split up in to four quarters, each of which has one teat and separate storage for milk.
Cows have four separate teats on each udder so that they can feed multiple calves at the same time. It’s not uncommon for cows to give birth to two or even three calves at once.
In the wild, this is a huge evolutionary advantage because it means that multiple calves can feed at the same time, and includes a built in redundancy in case one teat becomes injured or damaged.
Do Only Cows Have Udders?
All mammals have mammary glands by definition. Typically, quadripedal animals like cows and goats have udders, while bipedal mammals like human beings and chimpanzees have breasts, with a few notable exceptions.
Cats, dogs, and elephants are all four-legged mammals which have breasts instead of udders.
What Other Animals Have Udders Except Cows?
Many other species have udders, not just cows. Like cows, udders are found only in the female of the species and are used to produce and store milk for their young.
Other species which have udders:
All breeds of cow can have udders, though only females who have had (or are about to have) their first calf will have visible udders.
No matter what breed they are, every cow who has only one set of udders, which is divided in to four quarters. It’s a common misconception that cows have four udders.
Female cows who are infertile or haven’t had any calves don’t have visible udders, although they will still have visible teats where the udders would grow otherwise.
Female cow calves (under 12 months) never have udders because they are not yet old enough to become pregnant or give birth, so there is no reason for them to develop udders.
Since cows only develop udders when they get pregnant, most beef cows don’t have udders because the male beef cattle are castrated, meaning pregnancy is not a possibility.
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.