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How to Pet a Cow

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Regarding family pets, cows are most definitely not at the top of the popularity list. If you’re keeping cows, it’s more likely for their milk or meat than for their personality

It may be news to you, but cows are actually friendly, gregarious creatures. Especially if they are raised close to humans and gifted with tenderness and affection.

In that case, they will adore being petted and hugged and will return the affection given to them.

Read on for tips on approaching and petting a cow, plus a wealth of other interesting facts about these friendly farm animals.

Adorable little boy petting a brown large cow touching cow's face on organic dairy farm

Can You Pet a Cow?

While most cows are generally pleasant, there is always a risk when you get too close to an unknown cow in the country or on a farm.

Because of the potential dangers involved, you should always contact the farmer ahead of time and get permission before entering a farm or pasture where animals are present.

Without the farmer’s knowledge and permission, you should never approach a farm animal.

Be aware that if cows come to you from behind a fence, it’s a good sign because they’re eager for human affection. That makes it more likely that you can safely pet them.

Keep in mind that cows can be frightened easily and can be dangerous due to their size and weight.

7 Simple Tips on How to Approach a Cow

  1. Cows dislike being chased. Always slowly approach the cow.
  1. You shouldn’t sneak up on the cow. 
  1. You should never walk up to a cow from behind; instead, approach from the side so that she can see you. Cows can see well and can see almost everything around them. Nevertheless, they have a blind spot that is precisely behind their heads.
  1. While interacting with cows, it’s best to be slow and calm.
  1. Cows can be easily startled by unexplained noises, sudden movements, or unusual touches. 
  1. Mothers with calves should be left alone. You don’t want to interfere with a mother’s natural instincts.
  1. Keep your pace steady and your voice low. If you don’t make any sudden movements, the cows won’t worry about you.
Young girl in dress with handkerchief on her head strokes a black large cow on the farm

How to Pet a Cow?

Since you’ve learned how to approach a cow, we’ll go over the proper way to pet it.

Because cows are so large, you should really make use of your whole hand when petting one. Place a straight hand on the animal’s skin and gently touch it.

Beginning at the cow’s side of the neck, move your hand in long, steady strokes down the cow’s hair (not against the grain).

You can use a soothing tone of voice when patting the cow. Also, try to avoid any rapid movements.

In any event, if you sense the cow is stressed or agitated, stop interacting with it and withdraw.

Man with black bonnet pets a white and brown calf on a farm

Where to Pet a Cow

To make sure the cows are comfortable with being petted, it’s always a good idea to ask the cow’s owner where they are used to being stroked.

Cows, in general, love to be patted in spots they can’t reach, such as under the chin, around the neck, on the upper back, or behind the ears.

For instance, petting or massaging their sides is not as pleasurable to them.

Cows vs. Bulls


Beautiful brown cow with tag on its ear along with herd of cows on the background on a farm

Cows are intelligent animals that tend to have a good attitude.

Cows’ reactions to the human touch, like being petted or hugged, depend a lot on how they’ve been treated by people in the past.

Regularly milked cows are less likely to be startled or frightened by humans and are more likely to respond positively to human interaction and care.

If the cow has been handled tenderly and with care ever since she was born, there is no need to be afraid of her.


Side view of Massive black bull on Caribbean hill

Due to their defensive nature and the bull’s position in the herd, he is more likely to be aggressive.

So, bulls need the care and attention of experienced breeders as they grow up so that any aggressive tendencies they might have toward people can be stopped or greatly reduced.

My recommendation, then, is to approach a cow instead of a bull if you’re seeking a connection.

Contrary to popular belief, bulls cannot recognize the distinction between colors. The scarlet of the matador’s cloak will not provoke the bull into attacking.

The rapid motion sets off a bull’s reaction. When near one, keep calm and avoid making any sudden movements.

It’s also worth noting that dairy-bred bulls are much more likely to be aggressive than meat-line bulls.

Reasons Why Cows Act Aggressively

If a cow is forced to change her routine or is moved to a place she doesn’t know, she may become more violent.

There is a hierarchy inside a herd of cows known as the pecking order. When a new cow is brought into a herd, it might cause a disruption in the existing pecking order, which can lead to aggressive behavior.

Cows that nurse their young are more likely to defend them, especially if they perceive that their young are in danger.

Cows also show a strong intolerance for the unexpected. If you startle a cow or a bull, it might exhibit violent behavior.

Closeup show of a cow in clearing with yellow tag on its ears and blurry green nature background

Are Cows Smart Creatures?

The intelligence of cows is often underestimated.

Recent findings have shown that cows are capable of learning new information quickly and remembering it for a long period of time.

Animal behaviorists have discovered that cows engage with one another in socially complicated ways.

Over time, cows form bonds with one another and even harbor resentment toward someone they perceive as having mistreated them.

Woman in green shirt petting her brown and white cow inside wooden farm fence

Can Cows Be Trained?

Cows can learn a lot if they have a chance to do so in a peaceful atmosphere. The progress of the learning process is really exciting while using positive reinforcement.  

They become quickly familiar with the process and understand how to react without anxiety or nervousness.

Like cats, dogs, horses, and other animals, cows make wonderful companions and can be trained with ease.

Young man  hugging his brown cow

What Is Cow Hugging Therapy?

Hugging a cow induces a calming and relaxing sensation in humans, possibly due to the cow’s slow heartbeat, higher body temperature, and larger size. 

This treatment, which has been given the catchy name “Cow Hugging Therapy,” is gaining a growing number of passionate enthusiasts.

Cow-cuddling has been linked to an increase in the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which is released when people form strong social bonds.

Humans who engage in the practice of cow cuddling report feeling more upbeat and less stressed than before.

It appears that larger mammals, such as cows or horses, have an amplified influence on the therapeutic effects of hugging.

Final Thoughts

Cows enjoy being petted, although they can be wary of strangers and may not approach you at first. And it’s never a good idea to enter a farm or field simply to pet cows.

Keep in mind that cows are generally peaceful creatures, but their size and weight can still pose a threat.

Never approach an unfamiliar animal without first obtaining permission to do so from the owner.

The owner’s aid and following his instructions will allow you to safely establish contact with the animal while giving the cow a pleasurable, stress-free experience.