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Bovinophobia: Explained from a Cowgirl's Point of View

Updated on March 21, 2011
Red Angus steer
Red Angus steer

Bovinophobia: that's some made-up name for folks who have a "fear of cows."  Simply laughable from where this Alberta cowgirl/farmgirl is standing (or sitting). So what is it, exactly?  Well, I'll tell you: when someone who ain't all that cow-savvy to begin with sees a bovine (doesn't exactly have to be a cow per se) "running" up to them, they turn-tail and run like hell away from them, thinking that this bovine just charged them.  This often results in the more cow-savvy folks fighting to keep a straight face amid the shrieks and cursing that this city-slicker just got "charged" at by a "stupid cow."   

Though I honestly've never seen this happen, I can see how or why these types of folks would be scared of the domestic bovine, particularly if they've never been around one (or more than one). 

Why are folks scared of cows?

The biggest thing that I can see that has some relevance to this type of phobia is the fact that cattle are large creatures.  They ain't the size of a dog or cat, which are animals that are much less intimidating (provided they ain't out in full force with the tooth and claw thing) than a big, hulking, ornery cow.  In today's world, the "average" size for a cow is around 1600 lbs.  In terms of height, they can get over 5 feet tall at the shoulder.  Them Chianinas are freakin' monsters by comparison, with the average weight topping at twice the average for a "normal" cow, and standing over 6 feet at the shoulder!  Now I've been around stocker steers all my life where the biggest ones stood a bit over 5 feet at the shoulder, but I couldn't imagine what'd be like standing 'side a Chianina! 

Them cows are strong too.  I heard once of a cow that didn't like to go around the younger calves and would rather go through them.  She simply lowered her head, and lifted that 600 lb calf right off it's feet and continued on her merry way.  Now that was just hear-say, but I'd certainly'd hate to be that calf standin' in her way!  How 'bout this: just imagine of that were a human being standin' there.  They wouldn't just get flipped, that cow'd make them grow wings and send 'em flying!

As far as the chargin' thing is concerned, I have to agree as there is merit to that.  But only some.  See, when I was a youngster, I got charged at twice: once when a great yearling Charolais bull wanted out of his prison of a pen by the barn and made a leap for freedom in my direction, and a second time when a brockle-faced steer decided I was some kind of annoying little animal that needed to be chased outta his pen and back into the safe confines of the old Ford pick-up truck. The first one wasn't really a charge, but the sound of fence boards splinterin' and a huge white shape leaping up over the corral is enough to make any 3-year old little gal scream like a banshee and high-tail it for home! As for that black brockle-faced steer, now that WAS a charge.  You know it when you see him comin' at ya with his head lowered and blowing snot down your back pocket.  Me, I was only 5 or 6 at the time, and to a bovine, any kid under 6 that only has two speeds is something that deserves to be "taken care of."  At that age, a kid looks like a dog or a cat to a cow, and that can lead to some purdy serious problems. 

Now for an adult to be scared of cows, that's a bit foolish.You'd think by know they'd've figgered out that cows only charge at folks if they're pissed off about having their calves messed with (blame the hormones...). At all other times, they're right peaceful creatures, wantin' nothin' more'n a treat from a stranger or to just graze in their pastures.  In my opinion, if a herd of cows come up to you all of a sudden, it's because they've been taught by the one that feeds and works with 'em that anyone up at the fenceline means that they're in for some tasty treats.  Hell when I went in the corral to go to the chop house (a smallish shed that stores chopped barley), I'd almost get ran-over by a herd of over-eager steers intent on getting some chop from me.  Their noses'd literally be inches from my ass as they'd follow me to the chop-house, they were so excited to get some feed...even if they were fed the day before.  Makes me laugh out loud now that I think of it!

When I'd be out in the pasture to check up on them, they'd come a hellin' it up to me then too, an' I think this was more of a way of greeting one of their herd members that don't come around too often than for feed, but then again...  Was I scared when they came up to me like that, all 60 or 80 head? Nah. That couldn't be farther from the truth.  I was actually quite happy to see them, especially if I've been away in the city for a month and needed to come home to get back to my roots an' enjoy the peace and quiet of the country. 

I know, I know, some of you'd be wonderin' why this girl who's been charged at twice is not scared of these animals later in life.  Well, either I'm thick-headed and stupid, or I'm thick-headed and stupid!  In all seriousness though, I got over my fears.  An' it ain't all that hard to do.

Face Your Fears

Growing up on a farm (someone actually called it a ranch), having cattle around was (and I reckon it still is) a main-stay of farm life.  We didn't have to have a cow-calf herd, we just had to have some cattle around to help complete the whole picture, in a manner o' speaking.

As a kid that's been on the farm when she was knee-high to a grasshopper (and I mean that literally!), having to cope with and face the many dangers of the farm is a way of life. I couldn't be scared of cattle for long, 'cause my dad needed me to help him out with them and all the other things that are used to keep this ol' farm running.

For me, the fear of cattle only lasted for a short period of time. Soon I was back playing with my animal toys (no, I never played with Barbie <gag>) near where the cattle were grazing, and I was feeding them grass and by hand in no time. 

Now for those of you with the bovinophobia affliction, this is easier said than done.  Especially for you adults who are a bit more skeptical and thick-headed than little girl or boy might be. But what you have to do to not be afraid of the domestic bovine is to understand them more.  Know their behaviour, their body language, and their "status" in life.  Be calm and relaxed, because that energy transfers from you to them, just like it would to your pet.  If your tense and nervous, then they will be tense and nervous.  Breathe, relax your shoulders, stand up straight, etc.  I like to let the animals come to me and just "hang-out" with 'em, just doing nothing more than standing around and enjoy their company.  And finally, don't make any sudden movements, because if they're tense and nervous, you can send a whole herd runnin' for the hills!

One word of advice for ya is to never make friends with the bull.   If he's the only one up at the fenceline around you and he's not just standing around waiting for a hand-out but growling, showing his side, pawing the earth, tossing his head, etc., just walk calmly away from the fence and ignore him.  Most bulls aren't too eager to come through the fence at a human being because they've got a harem of cows to protect, so once he feels you're a safe distance away, he'll leave you alone.  Unless he's one of them crazy, testosterone-hyped dairy bulls that think anything that moves deserves to be scared off.  Jersey and Holstein bulls are the worse for that.

But all in all, there's no real reason to be scared of cattle.  They ain't carnivores, so they won't eat you, and they're food-trained so if a whole herd of them does come up to you, it's not because they're charging at you, it's because they think you got something tasty to eat that they'd love to have their share of. 

So no, cows are not all that bad.


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      Nancy 18 months ago

      I must disagree with the idea that cows "only charge at folks if they're pissed off about having their calves messed with". It depends on the cow. I have worked with cattle all my life and have had encounters with cows that just didn't like humans. They were wild and mean. Yes, most cows are fairly calm. But there are a few that are not. I don't really fear them as I have worked with them since childhood, however, I do respect them. If they want to go where you are, you better have a big stick or get out of their way.

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      Valerie 3 years ago

      I grew up on a farm in Texas for half of my life and I have bovinophobia. I know cows aren't evil or anything it's just a fear that i have. People in my family don't understand why i don't like cows, but i love being near and riding horses. I don't really know what caused me to fear them, because horses are much more bigger than cows and they have a greater chance of injuring me, but it's just the way i am.

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      Shaddie 5 years ago from Washington state

      I find it strange how people can be scared of cows... But I guess they are pretty big.