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Unlocked The Secrets Of Cow

Updated on February 2, 2017

15 things worth knowing about cow :

  • Cows can take aspirin but they can’t take antibiotics.
  • Cows perceive their surroundings mainly using vision, hearing and olfaction.
  • Cows can drink up to 35 gallons or 132.5 litres of water a day.
  • Cows see clearly and have depth perception only in a narrow area in front of their heads (binocular vision), and have ample and panoramic lateral vision to detect movements although without details (monocular vision).
  • Cows can smell something up to 6 miles away.
  • Cows have a blind area where they cannot see or recognize movements.
  • Cows do not bite grass: they curl their tongue around it.
  • Cows are sociable animals and therefore should be handled in groups.
  • The oldest cow died just 3 months before her 49th birthday.
  • The type of rearing has a larger influence on Cows behavior than genetics.
  • Cows can eat 40 pounds or 18 Kg of grass a day.
  • Cows from some farms are more difficult to handle than others and this outcome is a consequence of the way animals were cared for at the farm.
  • Different cows make different kinds of milk & Cows use their tail to hit the flies.
  • Take advantage of Cow’s flight zone and point of balance to move them. For safety and welfare reasons, minimize the use of electric prods. Non-electric driving aids, such as plastic paddles, sorting sticks, flags or streamers (affixed to long handles) should be used to quietly guide and turn animals. When cows continuously balk, cows handlers should investigate and correct the reason rather than resort to overuse of electric prods.
  • Recognizing the behavior of cows is essential to improve handling practices.


Cows have slit-shaped pupils and weak eye muscles, which inhibits their ability to focus quickly on objects. Cows can distinguish long wavelength colors (yellow, orange and red) much better than the shorter wavelengths (blue and green), which may have aided their response and survival when a herd member was attacked and blood was spilt. Cows are dichromatic i.e. they have only two of the three main types of neural cells in retina. Dichromatic vision may provide better night vision and aid in detecting motion. Because of dichromatism and poor perception of depth, cows need to lower their head to see clearly. Because of this poor depth perception and lack of definition, cattle will often baulk and refuse to cross a shadow or drain grate (perhaps seeing it as a physical objects) and are best moved through diffuse light. Binocular vision – cow’s eyes are located laterally on the head, and only see with both eyes (binocular vision) in a narrow area straight ahead ( 30°–50°), where they have clearer sight and better depth perception. This is the reason cows turn and lower their heads to see clearly handler, or some objects in details. An unloading ramp, a trailer entrance or a drain in the alley at the slaughterhouse can have different flooring that attracts cows to observe these in details.

Monocular vision - cows do have with their eyes positioned on the side of the head panoramic vision of 300 - 320° which allows for good predator awareness. Despite the wide set of their eyes, however, they do have a blind spot directly behind them. This panoramic lateral vision, achieved by each eye independently, does not provide depth perception. However, cows can sense movement even with their heads lowered, while grazing, which helps detect the presence of predators in their natural habitat.

Blind area - This blind spot is located straight behind cow’s body and a small area in front of their nose, where they cannot see. These areas must be avoided to optimize handling, preventing cattle from getting distracted while trying to situate the handler. Cattle have good night vision that helps detect movements. Uniformity of colors (walls and floor) in areas of high circulation of animals can facilitate handling.


Cows identify their calves using smell, although visual and sound recognition become more important as calves grow older. Adult cattle also smell each other during social behavior. Communication by olfaction is important for sexual activity of Cows. In addition,olfaction contributes to social hierarchy (dominance) information exchange, where submission pheromones are released from a subordinate to a dominant animal. Cattle exposed to alarming situations tend to group and may release pheromones through urine, saliva or other mechanisms, to warn others about the condition they are exposed to, cows may become fearful of these signs thus promoting difficult handling.


Cows are very sensitive to high frequency sounds when compared to humans. When hearing, cows move their ears searching for source of noises, positioning them in the same direction as the source of sound, even when not turning their heads directly towards the source. One can determine the direction of cow’s focus by assessing the position of their ears. This characteristic is easily observed during handling, when animals alter ears position between handlers and other Cows in the group frequently.

Vocal communication

Cows in the process of evolution lived in open fields where they could always see the rest of the group around. That resulted to very limited need to use vocal communication. Limited vocalization within the herd has been important for survival as vocalization would always attract attention from predators. At the slaughterhouse, vocalization among cows is associated with aversive events, such as prodding, stunning failure, and excessive pressure during handling. Therefore, cow’s vocalization in pre slaughter and slaughter is an important parameter in an assessment of practices. At the slaughterhouses excessive particularly high pitch noise i.e. compressors’ discharge, whistling should be avoided. There are noises that even at the same intensity are more adverse than others; for example yelling, disturbs cows more than sounds from banging of metal.

Behavior and genetics

Animal behavior is determined by the interaction between environments and genetics, with differences among breeds. In general, Bos taurus indicus or zebu (subspecies of domestic cows originating in South Asia) is more reactive than Others. Likewise, crossbred zebu cows may be more reactive during handling than pure blood or crossbred European cattle. However, this cows are the most inquisitive and will investigate or follow a person or a dog. A common practice used in Australia to move groups of Brahmans is allowing them to follow a person. The tendency to follow a person is greater compared to British or European Continental breeds. Nonetheless, some studies found that if Brahmans are handled gently they can become extremely docile. The breeds that are the most reactive had the strongest tendency to approach novel objects. This is only true when the animals voluntarily approach the novel object. During forced movements where the animals are being driven toward a novel object just the opposite is true. The excitable flighty individuals will be most fearful and they will be more likely to freeze or balk. The rearing environment can however influence cow’s behavior more significantly than genetics. Animals reared in extensive systems, independently of their breed, tend to be more reactive than those reared in enclosed environments or confined systems.

Behavior by age.....

Most beef cattle handled to slaughter will be under 30 months, most dairy cattle will be at least 5 years and bulls can be even older depending on whether they are raised for beef or used as sires. Nearly all cows will be coming from highly socialized groups. Older cows are vastly more experienced but this also means they are more accustomed to a routine. Being loaded onto transport and it is little surprise that sometimes they will exhibit antagonistic behavior.


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    • prowritter62 profile imageAUTHOR

      Basem AW 

      2 years ago from Malaysia

      Oh .. Thank you ,You are always Welcome here with your Wonderful Comments

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Leigh Sebring 

      2 years ago from Fort Collins

      Great information!


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