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9 Facts About Cows

Cows are big, cloven hooved herbivores. Most people know cows from going to the farm as a child and few people get to know cows personally, I certainly don't know anyone that shares their home with a cow. This means that few people know anything more about cows than beef, milk and leather.

cow, calf
Cows are friendly, sociable, caring creatures

Cows are incredible and are definitely the most friendly "farm" animal I've ever met. They are curious, interested, funny and loving creatures. Below is a list of 9 amazing things about cows, this is the short list, I couldn't add everything:

Cows have no upper front teeth. When they eat they will pull at food, clamping it between their bottom teeth and the hard palate in the top of their mouth. They use the sharpness of their bottom teeth to break leaves off to eat.

Cattle are ruminants, this means that their digestive system is highly adapted to allow the cows to eat plants that are difficult to digest. Cows don't have four stomachs, as people often say, they have one stomach that is split into four compartments, rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. The reticulum is known as the "honeycomb". The omasum absorbs water and nutrients from food. The omasum is known as the "many plies" and the abomasum is like the human stomach and is known as the "true stomach". When cows are feeding, food is swallowed without being chewed and goes into the rumen for storage until they can find a quiet and safe place. The food is regurgitated, a mouthful at a time, back up to the mouth. Now called cud, the food is chewed and ground down to small particles. The cud is then swallowed again to continue digestion.

The gestation period, or length of pregnancy, for a cow is about nine months long, the same as a human's. A newborn calf's size can vary among breeds, but a typical calf weighs 25 to 45 kg (55 to 99 lb). After birth cow's will clean and nurse their calves and make sure that they can get up and walk around to keep them safe from predators.

Before 1790 beef cattle averaged160 kg (350 lb), this was a cow's natural weight, however, when humans started breeding cows for their own uses they bred them to be larger and heavier. Now, the weight of adult cattle varies, smaller kinds, such as Dexter and Jersey adults, range between 300 and 500 kg (600 and 1,000 lb). Large Continental breeds, such as Belgian Blue and Chianina adults range from 640 to 1,100 kg (1,400 to 2,500 lb). Bulls are larger than cows of the same breed by up to a few hundred kilograms. British Hereford cows weigh 600–800 kg (1,300–1,800 lb); the bulls weigh 1,000–1,200 kg (2,200–2,600 lb).

Laboratory studies have shown that young cattle are able to memorise the locations of several food sources and retain this memory for at least 8 hours, but they would start to forget after 12 hours. Younger cows also learn faster than older cows, especially after a cow has had more than one calf. Older cows are good at performing spatial awareness tasks, being able to remember the location of good food, and avoid food that wasn't so good, in a maze for at least 30 days. In more natural settings, young cattle could remember the location of feed for at least 48 days. Not only this, cows, when given the choice, show a preference for eating clover over grass, 70% clover and 30% grass. However during a 24 hour period, cows will show a stronger preference for clover in the morning, shifting more to grass towards the evening.

Meat eaters like to say that, if they didn't eat animals, the animals would cease to exist. This is clearly not true, the animals existed before humans started to use them and they were fine. Also, there wouldn't be so many many of these animals, i.e. too many, if people didn't force them to breed. Cows, historically, were native to many parts of the world, including Africa and Europe, but are believed to have originated in the United Kingdom. If cows weren't farmed they would roam free as foxes, deer and other animals do, living as they want, not according to human rules.

Cows spend about 10 hours a day lying down, and they will stand up and lay down about fourteen times a day. Cows can sleep while they’re standing, but to sleep properly they will lie down and will sleep this way for about 4 hours a day. Cows can lie down and get up as they want and the idea of "cow tipping", pushing cows so that they fall onto their side, is an urban myth. If you push on a cow nothing much will happen, they're too heavy for you to knock over and if they don't want to go somewhere, they won't.

Cows are very sociable animals, they can develop intense bonds with other cows, often preferring one cow over all others. They will spend more time with this individual than with other members of their herd. Cows can tell the difference between cows that they know and those that they don't, and this skill also applies to humans. Cow's can pick out people that they know from their faces and avoid people that they don't like. If kept in isolation cows will become distressed, even depressed, they really like company, even if it is a different animal such as a dog or even a duck.

Cows, being herd animals, work together to the benefit of the group, but more than this, cows care for each other. Cows take part in mutual grooming (allogrooming), helping to keep other cows clean and to strengthen their bonds within the herd. Cows will moo loudly when they find food, calling the rest of the herd over so that they can enjoy what has been found. At night cows take turns in being lookout, checking for predators. Cows will also take care of flies and other pests bothering members of their herd. They will lie or stand close to each other and use their tails to swish flies away from other cow's faces.

When you see cows as individuals, not a commodity, you start to see personality, to respect the identity of each creature. Their wants, needs, preferences and dislikes will become real to you and you will identify with them. They will stop being something on your plate or a pair of shoes, they become their own person.

Bonus Fact:

Cows like playing football. They need a really big ball, like a fitness ball, but they will chase, kick and bounce the ball, bouncing and running around having a great time.


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