Cows do have whiskers, but they are a little bit different from the whiskers you would find on a cat or a dog. Cow whiskers surround their nose and mouth and help cows understand their surroundings better, especially in the dark when their vision isn’t as good.
In this article, we’re going to look at cow whiskers and what they use them for, find out how they work, and also discover how cow whiskers compare to the whiskers of other animals.
Do Cows Really Have Whiskers?
Cow whiskers are shorter than many other mammals’ whiskers, being only but they are definitely there.
Cows have tapered whiskers all around their noses and mouths, which help them find food and understand their environment better, especially when it’s dark outside and they can’t see as well.
If you look closely at a cow’s face, you will notice their whiskers covering their mouth and chin, pointing forward and out to the site.
Why Do Cows Have Whiskers?
Cows have whiskers to help them find food and to better understand their environment when they can’t see as well.
Every breed of cow has whiskers. Whiskers are common across all bovine creatures, which include common cows, buffalo, deer, and elk, and are also found in most mammals.
Whiskers, also known as vibrissae are hairs that are used for sensing. They are extremely sensitive, and let a cow know when their nose brushes up against a clump of grass, or a piece of fruit lying on the ground, even if they can’t see it with their eyes.
Cow whiskers provide a cow with an extra tactile sensory ability around their noses and mouths, allowing them to judge exactly how close they are to the grass while they are foraging.
Read More: What do Cows Eat?
Cows’ whiskers are thicker than their fur and connect more deeply into their skin where they are connected to blood vessels and nerve endings, making them much more sensitive than other hair.
Cow whiskers work by sending a signal to the cow via the nerve endings at the base of the whisker any time the whisker is stimulated, usually when it brushes against some long grass. At that point, the cow knows they are within a whisker’s length of the grass and can use their tongue to grab it.
Cow whiskers are shorter than a lot of other mammals’ whiskers and are only around one inch (2.5cm) long.
Can Cows Move Their Whiskers?
Cats move their whiskers to detect prey, seals move their whiskers around to detect ocean currents, and mice move their whiskers to see in the dark and to fit through tight spaces.
Unlike many other mammals, cows can not move their whiskers. Instead, cow whiskers stay in one position and cows move their whole heads, with their whiskers giving them a little passive tactile response when they are about to hit something.
Do Bulls have Whiskers?
Bulls do have whiskers, which are physically and functionally identical to the whiskers of any other cow.
Just like cows, bulls use their whiskers to find food and as a little early warning system for if they are about to bump their heads into the ground.
Read More: Bull vs Oxen: 11 key differences
Do Calves have Whiskers?
Calves do have whiskers. Cow calves are born with whiskers already formed. Calves use their whiskers to help them suckle.
Is It Okay To Cut a Cow’s Whiskers?
You should never cut a cow’s whiskers. Cows’ large heads and long noses mean they can’t rely solely on their eyesight when they are foraging for food, and they need their whiskers to help them.
Without whiskers, cows would not be able to understand how close their mouths were to the grass they were trying to eat.
Read Also: Do Cows Bite?
What Other Animals Have Whiskers?
It’s not just cows who have whiskers. All other bovines, most mammals, bats, some birds, and even some fish have whiskers.
Here is a list of some other animals that have whiskers (vibrissae):
- All other Bovine species (elk, buffalo, deer)
- Most other mammals (excluding monotremes)
- Some birds (kiwis, flycatchers, swallows)
- Some fish (most famously catfish)
Reptiles do not have whiskers. Some studies have shown that whiskers were a key milestone in the evolution of mammals from reptiles.
Some other animals like cats also have whiskers on their ankles too, but cows only have whiskers on their face around their nose and mouth, and on their chin.
Related Article: Do Cows Sweat?
Cows do have whiskers, they are found all around a cow’s nose and mouth which helps them when they are foraging.
Cows can’t move their whiskers, so unlike predators like cats and seals, they don’t actively use their whiskers to hunt or stalk prey. Instead, cows use their whiskers to feel when their noses are close enough to the ground to grab a mouthful of grass.
Cows’ whiskers work because the hairs are connected to nerves deep in their skin, allowing the cow to feel when their whiskers are brushed against something.
Aside from cows, most mammals have whiskers with the exception of monotremes like platypuses, and humans.
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.