For anyone who has lived on a farm or in the countryside, this question has crossed their mind at least once. Cows moos seem to be noisier and more frequent at night than they are during the day! Why don’t cows just go to sleep at night?
Cows moo at night to keep themselves and the rest of their herd safe, for communicating with their friends (yes, cows have friends!) and to let the herd know if they are hungry or when they find food.
In this article we’ll be looking at cows’ complex system of night time mooing, learning how they use their voices to work cooperatively for the good of the herd, how you can minimize your own cows’ need to moo at night, and why a cow mooing after midnight is nothing to worry about!
Why Do Cows Moo At Night?
Cows moo to keep the herd safe, to make sure no cow gets lost, for socializing, and also as a clever way of making sure all the members of the herd get enough food.
Let’s take a look at some of these in detail:
1. Cows Moo to Ensure the Safety of the Herd
Cows are prey animals, and have evolved to live in large groups to keep themselves safe. Communication is vital for ensuring the safety of any herd animal. Every cow looks out for the herd by alerting the herd to any predators.
Cows can see well at night, but not as well as they can during the day. They use moos to keep in communication and warn the rest of the herd if they see any predators or potential threats.
Cows let out slow, deep bellows to let the herd know everything is okay, and higher pitched moos if they spot a predator or are in distress.
2. Lost or Lonely Cows Moo to find Their Friends
Cows have a complex social structure and have unique moos for each of their friends. Calves can recognize their mother’s call even in a large herd, and cows have unique calls for specific cow friends within the herd.
Calves and cows form a strong bond with each other, which endures even after the cow has subsequent calves. Although this sounds normal to humans, it’s quite rare in the animal kingdom and is testament to cows’ high levels of emotional intelligence.
At night, mother cows moo to find their calves, calves moo to find their mothers, and cows who have wandered too far away from the herd in search of fresh grazing grounds moo to find their way back to the herd.
Read More: Loneliness in Cows
3. Cows Moo for Socializing and Communication
Cows are highly social animals, with complex social structures, enduring family bonds, and even cow friend groups. Socializing is a major part of cow behavior and is important for their wellbeing.
Cows have different moos for their different cow friends, and can even have best friends with whom they communicate more frequently.
During the day, cows recognize each other by their profile, but at night when they can’t see each other, cows locate each other by mooing.
4. Cows Moo when they are Hungry or when they Find Food
Although cows have great eyesight, they can’t see as well at night as they can during the day.
Cows who are hungry and struggling to find food at night communicate with each other by mooing to let the rest of the herd know where the good pasture land is.
Unlike many other animals, cows are highly cooperative. Cows have a complicated system of communication in which cows will moo to tell the herd when they need food, and they also moo if they find food, so that the rest of the herd can come and get some too.
Humans could learn a lot from cows about working together for the good of everyone.
Are Cows Scared of the Dark?
Cows are not scared of the dark, but they have to be more alert at night because they can’t see as well and need to keep an eye out for predators.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia wanted to test whether cows preferred being outside on the pastures at night or inside a barn and found that overall, 54% of cows preferred being out in the pasture.
Results varied according to temperature and weather conditions.
How To Stop Cows from Mooing At Night?
Night time mooing is an innate behavior which is ingrained in cow psychology, developed over tens of thousands of years of evolution.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to completely stop cows from mooing at night, however you can help minimize cows’ need to moo at night, by ensuring they have plenty of food, an opportunity to socialize, and by ensuring any injured or sick cows are taken care of.
1. Ensure Your Cows Have Plenty Of Food
Cows moo when they are hungry, so ensuring your herd has plenty of food will help minimize mooing at night.
2. Ensure Cows Are With Their Friends And Not Alone
Cows get lonely when they are separated from their herds. You can cut down on night time mooing by making sure cows are together with their friends, and by not separating mother cows from their calves.
3. Make Sure Your Herd Feels Safe
One aspect of all herding animals is that the herd looks out for each other, to alert each other to predators or other threats.
By ensuring your cows feel safe and secure, they will have less need to constantly moo at night. Build secure fences to keep foxes and wild dogs away from the herd, let them sleep in a barn if they choose to, or give them some big hedgerows or tree cover for shelter.
4. Take Care Of Sick Or Injured Cows
Don’t leave sick or injured cows in the herd, since they moo due to stress, discomfort, or pain.
Remove any cows who need veterinary care from the herd so they can get the care they need in a safe place without disturbing the rest of the herd.
Superstitious Beliefs around Cows Mooing at Night
Since we humans have been living with cows for 10,000 years, lots of superstitious beliefs have developed surrounding them, including about cows mooing at night.
According to one superstitious belief, a cow mooing or lowing after midnight is an omen of a death in the family.
If you’ve lived near a farm you already know cows moo their heads off from dusk till dawn, so I don’t think you need to worry!
Cows mooing at night comes from their evolutionary instincts shared by many herd animals. Their complex system of moos keeps them safe from predators, ensures every member of the herd has enough food, and stops any cows from getting lost.
Cows have specific moos for finding lost calves, socializing with their cow best friends, warnings to the herd about predators or other threats, and even specific moos to broadcast to the herd when one cow finds a good area for grazing.
Cows’ complex system of moos is a testament to their cooperative nature and emotional intelligence.
Some people hold some superstitious beliefs about cow mooing after midnight being a bad omen, but now you know the truth!
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.