Cows are gentle, intelligent, and friendly creatures, so it’s no surprise that many people keep them as pets. In spite of their friendly personalities, there are a few drawbacks to keeping a cow as a pet that you might not have thought about.
Cows can make good pets, as long as you have sufficient land to keep them on.
They have the emotional intelligence to be a worthwhile animal to keep, however, they need specialist care from agricultural veterinarians, are expensive to feed, and it’s definitely a different experience from owning a smaller pet like a dog or a cat.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of owning a cow as a pet, as well as diving into some things you need to consider before you run out and buy yourself a cow.
Benefits of a Pet Cow
In this article, I’ll look at some benefits as well as drawbacks of owning a cow as a family pet. Let’s start with the benefits!
1. Cows are Emotionally Intelligent
Cows are social animals with a high level of emotional intelligence. They can form strong bonds with other cows, other animals, and humans.
This means a pet cow will learn who you are, they will be excited to see you and want to play with you, just like a dog.
Related Article: How Fast Do Cows Grow?
2. Cows Can Be Trained
Cows are pretty smart, and can be trained to perform certain tasks. After all, farmers used oxen for thousands of years to plough fields, turn millstones, carry cargo, and transport people.
Many show cows learn poses including bowing with their front legs, turning in a circle, and lying down on command.
With some positive reinforcement training, a pet cow will be able to learn simple commands and skills like this.
Read More: Are Cows Smart or Dumb?
3. Cows Are Friendly Towards Humans
Cows have evolved over thousands of years to work closely with humans. When a cow is raised from birth around humans, they become socialized with humans and can be very friendly.
Cows will give you a hug and run over to you for treats or scratches once they get to know you.
Related Article: Do Cows Eat Their Own Poop?
4. Cows Are Providers
In many countries around the world, families keep a cow solely because of what they can provide for the family.
Cows provide milk, meat, and manure, each of which is useful in their own way.
Milk can be used to make butter, cream, cheese, and other dairy products, and cow manure can be used as a highly effective fertilizer, which helps with crops.
Read More: How Many People could One Cow Feed?
Drawbacks To Keeping A Cow As A Pet
Now that we’ve had a look at the benefits of keeping a cow as a pet, let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks.
1. Cows are Expensive Pets
Owning a cow can be expensive. Some factors which contribute to the expense of owning a cow as a pet include:
- Very expensive vet bills
- Expensive food bills during the winter
- The cost of buying a cow in the first place
- Fees for permits and inspections (depends on where you live)
- Transport costs
- Costly infrastructure (troughs, cattle crushes, barns)
2. Cows Need Lots of Land
Another thing it’s important to think about is whether or not you have enough land to support a cow.
The exact area of land you need for your cow varies according to the size of the cow, the species of grass growing, the climate where you live, the time of year, and how many cattle you have together.
As a very rough rule of thumb, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) says that each cow-calf pair requires around two acres of land each.
Read More: How Many Cows Can You Keep on Five Acres?
3. There is Bureaucracy Associated with Owning a Cow
Since cattle are farm animals, in many jurisdictions there are complex regulatory requirements surrounding the ownership of cows, even if you just keep them as pets.
These regulations are in place to ensure that every cow is accounted for, and can’t accidentally find its way into the food supply.
Depending on where you live, you will probably have to register your cattle with an agricultural agency, you may be subject to annual inspections, and you must keep your cattle properly vaccinated and report all illnesses immediately.
If you plan on using your cattle for dairy or meat, there are also very strict requirements on the humane slaughter of cattle, and for the handling of the meat and milk they produce.
As an example, to own cattle in the UK, cattle must be registered, may be subject to cattle inspections, must be correctly tagged, and must be regularly checked for bovine tuberculosis and other diseases. (Source: UK Government)
Related Article: Are Cows Dangerous And Aggressive?
4. Cows Need Specialist Care
If your pet cow gets sick, you can not just bring them along to the local vet.
Cows require specialist ongoing veterinary care from an agricultural vet, to check them for disease (see the reporting requirements above) and especially to care for their hooves.
Small hoof problems like a bruise or cut can quickly develop into an infection and cause lameness without proper treatment.
Likewise, vaccinations for bovine diseases are not available from your regular vet, and you will need to know an agricultural veterinarian to certify your cattle as disease-free, depending on the laws where you live.
Is It Legal to Own A Pet Cow?
Although there is strict bureaucracy associated with owning farm animals as pets, owning a cow is perfectly legal in most countries and states, although it’s important to check your local laws first.
In the United States, Arizona is the only state which explicitly prohibits the ownership of cattle as pets without a permit. Source: Arizona Administrative Code
To sum up, cows are a worthwhile and rewarding pet to own, but it’s extremely important that you honestly evaluate whether you’re in a position to look after a cow before you run out and buy one.
Cows need lots of grazing land, specialist and expensive veterinary care, expensive infrastructure, and there are strict regulatory and reporting requirements in most countries associated with owning cattle.
In spite of this, cows are highly intelligent, emotional creatures who are capable of forming strong bonds with humans. Cows can feel complex emotions and are highly trainable. If you have the land and the know-how, cows make great pets.
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.