Cows are intelligent, emotional, and affectionate creatures who form strong social bonds within their herd and with humans.
Cows show their affection with cute and friendly behavior much like a dog would, for example by following you around, licking you, and letting you pet them.
In this article, we’re going to look at all the different ways cows can show their affection for humans. You’ll be surprised just how friendly and loving cows can be!
Five Ways Cows Show Affection to Humans
Cows are extremely emotionally intelligent, much more than we give them credit for. They have strong social hierarchies within their herd and even have their very own cow best friends!
As well as being a social animal within their own species, cows have been living with humans for over 10,000 years now and have learned to bond with us too, just like dogs or cats!
Here are five ways cows show affection for humans:
1. Licking You
Cows use their rough tongues to groom themselves and their herd members. This type of social grooming is called allogrooming and is common in lots of species, including chimpanzees and domestic cats!
Similar to how a cat might lick your arm or hand, a cow will try to “groom” you with their tongue if they consider you part of their herd.
Cows don’t have any upper teeth, so their tongues are very rough to help them rip and tear at grass and other foliage.
When a cow licks you, it feels similar to sticky sandpaper being dragged across your skin. It can actually be pretty painful, but at the same time it’s nice to know that a cow trusts you enough to welcome you into their herd!
2. Following You Around
Cows are naturally curious animals, and may follow you around if they think you look interesting.
A curious or friendly cow may slowly meander towards you and follow you around like a shadow, waiting to be petted or fed, or just to investigate you!
For cows who have already bonded with humans, they may follow around their favorite humans just like a dog would.
Read More: What does it mean when a cow follows you?
3. Letting You Pet Them (Cuddling You!)
Cows LOVE to be petted, but they are sometimes anxious and fearful of strangers. It takes some time for cows to bond with humans, but once they trust you they will allow you to pet them and scratch their ears and head.
Cows in rescue sanctuaries and farms will even cuddle with their humans, laying down with them and letting them rub their bellies just a dog would.
4. Talking To You
Cows Moo to Communicate with their herd. They even have different moos for different people! Once a cow gets to know you, they will moo when they see you, like a dog would bark.
5. Playing With You
Cows love to play, much more than you would expect for such a large animal.
Once a cow is really happy and trusts you, they will play with their toys with you, run up to you and chuff like a dog, rub their head against you, and roll on the grass with you.
Read More: Do Cows Play?
This type of behavior is more common with rescued cows in farm sanctuaries and rescue centers.
Can Cows Get Attached to Humans?
Cows can get attached to humans when they spend a long time around them.
In a promotional video from Dairy Farmers of Canada, one farmer said:
“In dairy farming, you spend many years with the same cow. You get very attached”.
Outside of farming, we really notice cows getting attached to humans in sanctuaries and rescue centers.
In sanctuaries for farm animals, cows have been known to become friends with dogs, goats, horses, pigs, as well as humans.
One example of a strong cow-human relationship is the relationship between Milkshake the Cow, and her human rescuer Beth DiCaprio. After being rescued as a young calf, the two have become inseparable.
Do Cows Know Their Owners?
Cows learn to recognize their owners over time, especially on a farm where the farmer brings them food every day.
Cows eventually learn to know their owners and will follow the farmer around for food or attention.
Can Cows Bond With Humans?
Cows can definitely bond with humans. They are much more emotionally intelligent than they get credit for!
According to Susanna Vullers, Owner of Mountain Horse Farm in New York which offers therapeutic cow-cuddling sessions,
“Cows like to be with you, they’re very curious, they know their names, they always want to come up and see what’s going on.”
In conclusion, cows are highly intelligent, emotional and social creatures and can form strong bonds with humans as well as other animals.
Cows show their affection to humans by following them around, grooming them with their tongues, communicating with moos and lowing, allowing people to get close to pet them and cuddle them, and even playing with toys and people.
Cows can get to know their owners or farmers, but the strongest cow-human relationships are seen in rescue sanctuaries, where cows are saved from slaughter and allowed to live out a peaceful existence.
In these sanctuaries, cows can become very attached to their human friends, and often act more like dogs or puppies than cows!
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.