Although there are many possible reasons a cow might follow you, the most common reason is simply that cows are extremely curious animals and commonly follow humans and other animals they find interesting.
In this article we’ll look at some of the different reasons a cow might follow you, how to figure out what it means when a cow is fol\lowing you, and what you should do if you’re being followed by a cow!
Reasons Why a Cow Might Follow You
Most of the time, cows just follow things they find interesting, but occasionally a cow following you can be a sign that they are unhappy with you being so close to them and you should probably move.
Let’s take a look at five reasons cows might be following you:
1. Cows are Naturally Curious
Cows are naturally inquisitive animals and often follow humans, bikers, other animals, and anything else they find interesting.
If you’ve ever been out walking in the countryside you’ve probably noticed this yourself. Cows will sometimes follow you from the other side of the fence, especially if you’ve got a dog with you. For some reason, cows seem to love dogs!
2. They are Hungry
Cows have been domesticated for over 10,000 years. Farm cows have learned to associate humans with food, and may be following you around because they think you’re about to feed them.
If you do find yourself being followed by a hungry cow, maybe you could pick them some fresh grass from your side of the fence. If they are your own cows, there are loads of treats cows love, including salt licks and cattle cubes!
3. When Cows are Protecting Their Young
Like all mammals, cows are very protective of their young. Unless you’re a farmer, you should never ever enter a field with cows and calves in it.
Cows are generally friendly and placid creatures, but if a cow thinks you’re a threat to her calf you will be on the receiving end of a charging cow quicker than you can say “oops I shouldn’t have entered this field”.
If you notice cows coming towards you and their calves are nearby, it’s best to leave them alone.
Read More: How to tell when a cow is angry.
4. They might Want to be Petted
Cows are very sociable, and can form strong bonds with humans and other animals. As long as they aren’t with their calves, most cows are happy to let you pet them or brush them.
The caveat to this is that you should never enter a field containing cows if it’s not your field.
Cows who are used to living around humans might follow you around as you pass their field from behind the fence, hoping you might stop and pet them through the fence.
5. They May Be Scared or Nervous
Although cows tend to be quite docile, they are prey animals at heart and still have a strong fight or flight instinct.
According to Dr. Temple Grandin, professor at Colorado State University, cows and other prey species may slowly follow potential predators as a way to keep them in sight. This behaviour can be seen in other bovidae species like antelope and buffalo.
If a cow is scared or nervous of you, they will follow you around from a safe distance. This is their way of exploring new things and making sure you’re not a threat to them or their herd.
If a cow is following you around nervously, it’s best to leave them alone and let them be at peace. If you stand still, the cows might approach you for a petting or a treat, but make sure you’re outside of the fence if you want to try this.
What Does it Mean When a Cow Follows You?
Usually when a cow follows you, it just means that they are curious about you, or they find you interesting. Cows are very inquisitive and even if they aren’t sure about you, they will follow you around from a distance to judge whether or not you’re a threat.
What Should You Do if a Cow Follows You?
If a cow is following you and you don’t know why, the best course of action is to slowly exit the field and get behind the fence, because it’s not always obvious whether the cow is friendly and looking for a treat, or following you because they are nervous of you.
Once you’re safely behind a fence and out of the way of the cows, you can stop and see if they will come closer to you.
Many cows are used to humans and will be happy for you to pet them or feed them a handful of fresh grass from outside the fence where it hasn’t been trampled down by their hooves.
Why Do Cows Follow Farmers?
Cows have been domesticated for over 10,000 years. During that time, they have developed close bonds with humans and learned to associate them with food.
Cows are emotionally intelligent and can form strong bonds with their owners. Cows may follow the farmers around because they have learned to associate the farmer with food, petting, treats, and milking.
Is It Dangerous if a Cow Follows You?
It’s usually not dangerous if a cow follows you, especially if they are on the other side of the fence.
Cows are mostly gentle giants, however due to their weight they can be dangerous when they are scared or startled, or when they are protecting their young.
If you find yourself being followed by a cow, make sure you’re safely behind a fence.
To sum everything up, cows usually follow you out of curiosity, or because they have learned to associate humans with food, treats, and milking (which cows love!).
Other reasons a cow might follow you include that they are hungry, they are protecting their young, or they might be scared or nervous.
Cows and other cloven-hoofed animals sometimes follow potential predators, to keep them in sight and make sure they know where they are.
If you find yourself being followed by a cow, it’s a good idea to make sure you leave their field and get behind a fence.
Although cows are friendly most of the time, it can be difficult to judge whether they are following you because they want to be petted, or whether they are following you because they think you’re a threat.
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.