Cows are emotionally intelligent creatures and can form strong social bonds with people and other animals. While each cow is different, many cows do love being petted, stroked, and brushed.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the surprising social and friendly personality of cows and looking at how they like to be petted.
Do Cows Like Being Touched?
Cows are prey animals and are easily spooked by unknown situations. If you’ve ever walked past a field of grazing cows you may have noticed how easy it is to startle them.
This skittish nature may lead you to believe that cows don’t like people, or that they wouldn’t like you touching them, however that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Cows are extremely sociable and once a cow feels comfortable around you they love to be petted, stroked, brushed, and talked to.
Do All Cows Like To Be Petted?
While many cows love being petted, how comfortable they are around humans really depends on how they have been raised.
Farm cows and show cows are used to being around people and form a strong social connection with the farmers. They love being petted and act more like a friendly dog than a wild animal.
Older cows may also be more willing to be petted, since they are more likely to have been socialized with humans.
On the other hand, beef cattle can sometimes spend all year grazing with minimal interaction with people and may not be so friendly or willing to be petted.
Should You Pet A Cow?
If you work on a farm or you’re in the countryside and some inquisitive cows approach you, it’s fine to pet them as long as you’re behind the fence.
You should never approach cows, and never enter their field. Although farm cows are friendly, they are still easily spooked and their considerable heft means they can be dangerous.
If you want to pet a cow, wait for them to approach you. (A handful of grass usually entices them over!)
Do Cows Like Being Scratched?
Cows love being scratched, especially behind their ears and other places they can’t reach.
Like dogs, cows have lots of nerve endings in their ears, and they love getting their ears scratched because they can’t reach them themselves.
There is ample video evidence of this fact!
In a recent study by the University of British Columbia, it was found that cows’ desire for being brushed is just as great as their desire for fresh food!
Is It Safe To Pet A Cow?
Although most cows are friendly, it would be wrong not to mention the potential dangers of approaching cows in the countryside.
Cows are prey creatures, which means they are easily startled by new or unfamiliar situations.
If a cow approaches you from behind their fence, it’s probably fine to assume it’s safe to pet them, however it’s important not to climb the fence, because although they are usually friendly, cows are large and heavy and may have dangerous horns.
Do Bulls Like Being Petted?
Bulls like to be petted just as much as any cow, however bulls are more aggressive than regular cows and are unlikely to accept being petted by a stranger.
Caution is required if you’re anywhere near cattle, and you need to be even more careful around a bull.
Is It Safe To Pet A Bull?
Although bulls may enjoy being petted, it’s not safe to pet a bull because of their higher levels of aggression. Bulls have been known to jump fences, and their horns present a real threat to humans.
How To Pet A Cow
Here are some simple tips for petting a cow. This assumes you don’t already live on a farm and are petting cows in the countryside.
1. Don’t approach them
The most important thing to know about cows is that they are easily spooked. The best way to get close to a cow is to let them approach you.
If you approach a cow, it might scare them and cause them to run, which can be dangerous.
2. Stay on the opposite side of their fence
For your safety, remain on the human side of the fence. Don’t enter the field the cows are in. It’s dangerous and it might be trespassing.
3. Wait for them to approach you
Cows are naturally inquisitive, and may approach you if they are used to humans.
They may approach for a handful of fresh long grass from outside their field, especially if they have chewed and trampled the grass a lot, but you shouldn’t feed fruit or vegetables to cattle you don’t own.
4. Pet the cow gently, avoid sensitive areas
Cows ears are sensitive and house lots of nerve endings. Be gentle with them and avoid their mouth and eyes.
Do Cows Like Being Brushed?
Cows love being brushed. Many farms buy special static or rotating brushes (called cattle brushes) specifically for their cows, so they can brush themselves against them.
Absent these brushes, cows like to brush and rub themselves against trees, especially to scratch their heads, backs, and other areas they can’t reach.
When farmers are taking their cows to cattle shows, they often brush their fur to get them looking their best.
Where Do Cows Like Being Petted?
Cows like being petted on their heads, necks, and backs.
Cows especially like their ears being petted, but you should be careful not to touch their eyes, which are a sensitive area for all mammals.
To sum up, cows love being petted, but they are a bit skittish and might not let you near them if they don’t know you.
Cows love being petted so much that many farms include a cattle brush, which is like a scratching post for cows, so they can rub up against it to pet themselves.
Although cows love being petted, you should never enter a farm or field just to pet them. If they want petted they will come to the fence and lean over to you.
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.