These Surprising 73 Cow Facts Will Shock You

Before we start with our list of cow facts, we will like to ask you a simple question. Just how much do you know about these animals? 

You eat beef or you drink milk or eat milk derivatives, but we are pretty sure that you don’t know much about the animal from which all those food items are derived. 

So, let us delve deep into the world of cows and find out how amazing they are. Let’s start with our list of surprising cow facts!

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderArtiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
SubfamilyBovinae
GenusBos
SpeciesB. taurus
Binomial nameBos taurus

Cow Facts: 1-10

1. Surprise! Cow is just used colloquially. The actual term is Cattle. Some people call these animals as Bovines. To get even more colloquial, cow usually refers to a female while bull refers to a male.

2. Truth is, different places in the world have different names. For instance, there are places where a non-castrated male or bull will be called an ‘Intact’. In Australia, bulls that are unmarked are called ‘Micky’.

3. In Canada or the USA, a bovine – irrespective of sex – if unbranded, will be referred to as ‘Maverick’.

4. This may sound a bit weird but here is one of the most surprising cow facts you will come across: An adult female bovine is called a ‘cow’ if she has given birth to at least 1 calf. In some places, to become a cow, a female bovine needs to give birth to at least 2 calves.

5. There are places where a young female bovine who has given birth to just one calf will be called a ‘first-calf heifer’.

6. What’s a ‘heifer’? It is a female bovine that is under the age of 3 years and is yet to give birth to even a single calf.

7. In the United States, males that have been castrated are called ‘steers’. Older steers in different parts of the world are called ‘bullocks’.

8. Calves or either sexes are called ‘calves’ until they are weaned. Once they are weaned, they will be called as ‘weaners’ or ‘feeder calves’ until they attain the age of 1 year. When their age is between 1 to 2 years, they will be called ‘stirks’ or ‘yearlings’.

9. In New Zealand, Canada and Australia, bulls that were castrated late or were improperly castrated are known as ‘stag’. There are countries where males that have been incompletely castrated are called ‘rig’.

10. A close-to-calving heifer or a cow is referred to as ‘springer’. ‘Beef cattle’ is the cattle that has been raised for beef consumption. ‘Dairy cattle’ is the cattle that has been raised for milk production.

Cow Facts: 11-20

11. Cows are quadrupedal. This means that they walk on four legs. They have cloven hooves. This means that their hooves are divided into two toes.

12. Cows are also called ruminants. This means that they have a different type of digestive system which is highly specialized for digesting plants that cannot be easily digested.

13. They don’t really have four stomachs. That’s a myth. They have only one stomach. However, that single stomach has four compartments. Those compartments are named as:

  • Rumen
  • Reticulum
  • Omasum
  • Abomasum

14. The smallest compartment is the Reticulum. This is often called the ‘honeycomb’. Rumen on the other hand is the largest compartment.

15. The compartment or chamber called Omasum is where the nutrients and water content from the food are absorbed. This chamber also often goes by the name ‘many piles’. The Abomasum is the ‘true stomach’ of a cow and is very much like the stomach of a human.

16. Cows have something called ‘cud chewing’. It is a process in which they regurgitate the food and re-chew it. Regurgitation means, expelling food through esophagus all the way up to the mouth.

17. What cows do is when they feed, they will simply swallow the food and store it in Rumen. They will later find a calm spot and regurgitate only a mouthful of the food and chew.

18. A cow will use its molars to chew on the regurgitated food called as the cud. The food will then break down into small particles and swallow it back. The re-swallowed food goes back into Rumen where specialized microbes start digesting it.

19. The microorganisms decompose carbohydrates and cellulose and convert them into fatty acids, which are cattle’s primary metabolic fuel. These microbes also ammonia, urea etc. (which are non-protein nitrogenous sources) and synthesize them into fatty acids.

20. The microbes reproduce right inside the Rumen. As new generations come in, older generations of the microbes die and the dead cells then pass into the digestive tract. The dead cells get partially digested providing high quality protein to the cattle.

Cow Facts: 21-30

21. The partially digested food in the Rumen then passes into the Reticulum. This section is highly specialized and is designed to do two primary functions. First, the cud that has been digested after regurgitation goes into the Reticulum where it is softened and smaller cud wads are formed.

22. The Reticulum also traps all the unnecessary things that the cow shouldn’t have eaten in the first place such as wires, fencing parts, rocks, metal scraps etc. This is the reason why the Reticulum is also known as Hardware Stomach.

23. The name ‘honeycomb’ is used for Reticulum simply because it has a lining that looks like honeycomb.

24. The cud that goes into reticulum goes through further digestion and breakdown before it is passed on to the third compartment called Omasum. This compartment is blessed with several folds through which the food passes.

25. Inside the Omasum, as the food passes through the folds, it is squeezed. This squeezing breaks down the cud even further and extracts the water out of it. Eventually, the food passes into the Abomasum where the digestion process is completed. Essential nutrients are passed into the bloodstream from here and the rest is passed into the intestines.

26. The non-food items that get trapped into the reticulum (such as the metal scraps, rocks, fencing parts, wires, nails etc.) can lead to a problem in cows known as Hardware Disease.

27. The Hardware Disease is a condition where sharp heavy objects caught by the Reticulum of a cow can push through a part of the wall of Reticulum and can reach the peritoneal cavity, leading to severe inflammation. This can happen when the Reticulum contracts during digestion.

28. In worse cases, those sharp, heavy and dense materials can puncture right through the Reticulum and reach all the way up to the heart sac and pierce it.

29. There are various symptoms of the Hardware Disease including reduction in feed intake, deteriorating body condition, reluctance to move, lay down or get up. The cow may have an arched back when it is forced into walking. During defecation and urination, the cow can experience pain and hence, grunt loudly.

30. Metal detectors and magnets are often used to know whether a cow is suffering from Hardware Disease or not. If necessary, ultrasonography and radiography may be carried out and under serious conditions, surgery may be required with high antibiotic dosage to reduce inflammation and infection. Movement of the cow may be restricted hoping the Reticulum will repair the damage.

Cow Facts: 31-40

31. Did you know that cows have a decent memory? They are very much capable of remembering the food source locations for well up to 8 hours! By 12 hours, their memory starts declining. But that’s quite commendable. Don’t you think so?

32. Scientists have found out that heifers that are around 15 months old have way better memory that cows that have already given birth to 1 or 2 calves. The long term memory of the cows is somewhat debatable because their long term memory is pretty unstable.

33. However, cows that are pretty mature are very much able to maintain good long term memory. But this is true only in case of very artificial conditions. In the open however, younger cows perform better by remembering good quality food sources for up to 48 hours as compared to 30 hours of older cows in artificial conditions.

34. Calves and grownup cows have the ability to discriminate between familiar as well as unfamiliar animals belonging to the same species or different species. For instance, calves can discriminate between humans. Those who handled them well, the calves will get close easily while those who don’t handle them well, the calves will try to avoid them.

35. For mature cows, they will be more friendly towards familiar animals while making groups, but aggressive towards unfamiliar ones during the same process. In case of dealing with humans, they will take cues even from dress color worn by humans and not just from their faces.

36. Studies have revealed that the emotional state of cows is indicated pretty often by the position of their ears.

37. Also, stressed cows communicate with other cows through urine. Yes, their urine will contain stress substances when they are stressed.

38. It has also been found that isolation can lead to increased heart rate, increased vocalization and higher concentrations of plasma cortisol. Isolation-induced emotional state can arise even for short term isolation. This means that if a cow is isolated from another cow or other cows that are known, the cow will go into psychological stress very quickly. This is true even for the bulls.

39. Now here is one of the most fascinating cow fun facts. Cows widely use all 5 major senses that are known to us. Vision is their most dominant sense. 50% of all the information they receive comes visually.

40. Now, here is something really interesting. Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads and not on the front. This is because of the fact that they are prey animals. The arrangement of their eyes allows them a 330° field of vision.

Cow Facts: 41-50

41. Because of their panoramic vision, their binocular vision is pretty limited and hence, they have a blind spot right behind them. The visual acuity of cows is also pretty good at 1/20. This is definitely not as good as humans but still pretty good.

42. As far as colors are concerned, their eyes have only two different types of color receptors in their retinas’ cone cells. This means that they are dichromatic.

43. Cows are capable of distinguishing colors of long wavelength like red, orange and yellow while have trouble distinguishing colors of short wavelength like green, gray and blue.

44. Calves can quickly discriminate between long wavelength colors and short wavelength colors or medium length colors. However, when it comes to discriminating between short wavelength and medium wavelength colors, they find it difficult to do so.

45. Calves will approach handlers quickly under red light, but when the handler is under short wavelength or medium wavelength color, they will not approach so quickly.

46. It is a very wrong notion that bulls charge in because of the red color of the cloth during a bullfight. It is actually the movement of the cape or the flag that irritates the bulls and they charge in.

47. Coming to tastes, cows have 20,000 taste buds. Their senses of tastes are very well-developed and they are very much able to distinguish between the four primary tastes – sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

48. The taste perception’s strength will depend on the food requirement of a cow. They usually prefer sweet foods that are known to have high calorific value. They will avoid bitter food that can be potentially toxic. They also know salty food and usually eat such food to maintain electrolyte balance.

49. It is necessary for them to maintain the pH level of their Rumen and they will eat food that is sour only to maintain that pH level.

50. Cattle can seek salt by smelling and tasting. They know that usually plants don’t have high salt content. Hence, when they need more salt, they will prefer walking long distances in search of such food. Their senses of taste and smell help them in identifying high salt-containing food.

Cow Facts: 51-60

51. The hearing range of cows is between 23 Hz and 25 kHz. They are best sensitive to 8 kHz. The lowest threshold is -21 db. This means they have better or more acute hearing than horses.

52. Cows have a well developed sense of touch. There are nociceptors, thermoreceptors and mechanoreceptors that are present on their muzzle and their skin. They heavily use these receptors when they are usually exploring around. Yes, cows are very curious and they like to explore.

53. Okay, time for cow fun facts. Did you know experts say that cows were domesticated some 10,500 years back in Turkey?

54. The Bovine genome was completely mapped in 2009. And… the cow was the first one whose genome was mapped. Cows have around 22,000 genes, 80% of which are shared with humans.

55. Cows spend anywhere around 10 hours to 12 hours in a day – sleeping! They sleep lying down unlike the horses that stand and sleep.

56. The digestion process of cows produces anywhere between 250 and 500 liters of methane per cow per day. Stanford University scientists say that when measured in Carbon Dioxide equivalent, cows are responsible for anywhere between 18% and 51% of global greenhouse gas emission.

57. Cows are a big fan of a genuinely good rubdown just like dogs. They love being rubbed on their back, neck and head.

58. Do you know how many udder squirts it takes to give a gallon of milk? That’s a whopping 350 squirts. Here is something more interesting. Give your cow a name and treat her like an individual and she will give an extra 500 pints of milk a year.

59. Germans did a study on cows and found that they will lay down for resting or will graze while facing earth’s magnetic north or magnetic south. They are least bothered about wind direction or sun position. They don’t know why the cows do so. Source

60. Cows are known for chewing food anywhere between 40 and 50 times in a minute and they have 32 teeth to aid them in that. They will usually chew for about 8 hours every day.

Cow Facts: 61-73

61. Cows don’t have teeth on the upper jaw. Their upper palate is very hard and they hard press the teeth on their lower jaw against the upper palate to break the food into smaller pieces.

62. The jaws of a cow will move for around 40,000 times in a single day!

63. Cows are known to get excited when they manage to solve a problem. For instance, they were tested for cognition by making them open a door for reaching a food source. When they did, their heart beats increased.

64. When it comes to motherhood, cows are extremely devotional. They will walk for miles together in search of their calves.

65. Cows make friends and they prefer spending more time with their friends than others.

66. The gestation period of cows lasts for 9 months. That’s the same as in the case of humans.

67. Elm Farm Ollie was the first cow that flew on an airplane back in February 1930. She was also the first cow who was milked on an airplane.

68. Cows eat around 40 pounds of food every single day and they drink a hell lot of water (about the amount that fills up a bathtub).

69. Cows are capable of walking straight up stairs. But, when it comes to climbing down, they fail. Their knees will just not bend the way they should.

70. The heart of a cow beats at a rate of 60 bpm to 70 bpm.

71. The normal body temperature of a cow is 101.5°F.

72. Cows just can’t vomit. That’s weird!

73. The number of times a cow sits down and stands up is 14!

That’s pretty much all from our side. In case you want to add a few more facts, feel free to do so through the comments section! Enlighten us!

Sources

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