Cows are gentle giants. Of course they wouldn’t bite! If a cow approaches you, it’s probably because they are curious, or they want to be petted.
In the rare circumstances where a cow is angry, they are far more likely to kick or to use their horns than to try and bite, but not for the reasons you might think!
Cows don’t bite, because they can’t! Cows have no upper front teeth, so even if they wanted to bite you, the worst they could do is squish you with their gums. In addition, cows’ jaws don’t move the same way as us, and they are not adept at vertical biting.
In this article, we’re going to learn about why cows can’t bite, and why even if they could they probably wouldn’t want to. We’ll also learn about the one type of cow that DOES try to bite and look at some ways cows can be aggressive even though they can’t bite.
Do Cows Ever Bite?
Apart from chewing and grinding their food with their large, flat back teeth, an adult cow will never try to bite you with their front teeth.
Cows are pretty smart, and they know their own bodies. They know biting doesn’t work, it would be like a person trying to bite someone with their nose. The anatomy just isn’t there, so cows don’t even try it in the first place.
The one exception to this is cow calves, who use their mouths to gain a better understanding of their environments in a similar way that puppies do and will happily chew the farmer’s arm while he’s trying to feed them.
Is A Cow’s Bite Dangerous?
Although most cows would choose to flee rather than bite you if they did somehow manage to attempt to bite you it would not be dangerous.
Cow bites are not dangerous. Since cows have a soft dental pad instead of upper incisors, a bite from a cow can not cause any serious damage.
A cow’s jaw muscles are not very strong, and cows can not exert a lot of vertical force with their jaw.
Cows’ jaws move in a circular motion from side to side, to help them grind their food with their back teeth. Since cows are herbivores they have no need for strong jaw muscles for ripping and tearing flesh, since they can not eat meat.
Related Article: Do Cows Sweat?
Why Do Cows Not Bite?
Cows don’t bite for several reasons, the most obvious reason being that they don’t have the required anatomy for biting to be an effective strategy, either for eating or as a defense mechanism.
Let’s take a look at some other reasons cows don’t bite:
1. Cows Have No Upper Incisors
Cows’ upper incisors (front teeth) have been replaced with a patch of rubbery skin called a dental pad.
They use their dental pads with their tongues to grab hold of large quantities of grass, but it’s useless for biting.
If a cow did try to bite someone or something, they would have no chance to do any damage because whatever they were biting would just be pushed into their dental pad.
2. Cows are Not Aggressive
Cows are friendly, placid creatures who form strong emotional bonds with humans and other animals.
Even if cows could bite in self-defense or aggressiveness, it’s not in their nature. Cows are not aggressive.
3. Cows’ Jaws Move mostly Laterally, not Vertically
Cows are herbivores, living on a diet of mostly grass.
For them to extract sufficient nutrients from the grass they eat, cows need to grind the grass to a pulp with their back teeth before entering into the rumination cycle, which involves partially digesting their food before chewing it some more several times.
This grinding movement requires a cow’s jaw to move laterally. Cows’ jaws move from side to side in a roughly circular motion, not up and down.
Cows have no need to bite up and down strongly, so their jaw muscles are not as strong as a carnivore’s muscles since they don’t need to use their teeth to grip and tear flesh.
4. Cows’ Teeth get Worn Quickly
The final reason cows don’t bite is that although their teeth are sharp in the beginning, they quickly wear down.
Tooth condition changes so rapidly in cows that it’s used as an accurate form of estimating the age of a cow.
Are Cows Aggressive in Other Ways?
Although cows don’t bite, they can be aggressive in other ways, especially when they are defending their young.
A couple of ways cows show aggressiveness include:
- Using their horns.
- Use their weight. (Cows are big and they know it)
- Using their legs. Cows can deliver a powerful kick from their hind legs.
Read More: Why Are Bulls So Aggressive?
In conclusion, cows don’t bite, mostly because their mouths are not designed for biting, but for grinding.
The one exception to this rule is cow calves, who bite and chew on everything around them to gain a better understanding of their world. This type of chewing is common and is also seed in puppies and human babies.
The main reasons cows don’t bite are that they are not aggressive animals by nature, they don’t have strong enough mastication muscles in their jaw, they lack any upper incisors, and their teeth become very worn quite quickly, meaning they wouldn’t do any damage even if they did bite.
Although cows don’t bite, they can still defend themselves if they have to by using their horns, throwing their weight around, or using their powerful hind legs to kick.
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.