Cows are very large animals that can barely see the ground in front of them. They are somewhat lacking in agility, and this is especially true when it comes to traveling down stairs. Humans designed stairs for a typical 50–100-kilogram biped: cows are 500-kilogram quadrupeds. What’s more, most cows have lived in gently sloping grasslands, so the species has not evolved to deal with stairs. With a lot of coaxing, guidance, and practice, some cows can manage to descend a few shallow stairs, so it isn’t impossible for cows to go down stairs, but it is highly unusual and extremely unlikely.

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The Cow

The weight and build of a cow are determined by its age, gender, breed, and other factors. But a typical mature cow will weigh between 400 and 750 kilograms. They are also 95 inches long and as tall as a typical human. An average cow also has a shoulder width of 26 inches. They have very different measurements and build to a human, which makes it very difficult for them to tackle human-oriented stair design.

Kuroge Wagyu cow
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The Stairs

Stairs are constructed with human dimensions, and we have an average weight of 80 kilograms. Stairs have a tread, from front to back, of approximately 10 inches and each step has a height of around 7 inches. The pitch of a staircase is about 35°. These are deemed perfect measurements for people to use. However, they aren’t suitable for cows. The staircase is steeper than any hill most cows have to navigate. The staircase itself is too narrow for the cow to comfortably fit.

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Can A Cow Go Down Stairs?

Obviously, stairs weren’t designed for use by cows, and they do struggle with almost every element of the design. However, there are videos of cows descending stairs, so even though it is difficult, it is possible.

Can Cows Walk Up Stairs?

It is much easier for cows to walk up stairs than down stairs. They can more easily see where they are walking which enables them to get a sure foot on the step in front.

Can Cows Walk Backwards?

Typically, when given the choice, a cow will turn around walk forward, rather than walk backward. However, it is capable of walking backwards. It will do so carefully and slowly, to minimize the risk of injury and to prevent causing harm to itself. Also, while cows can run forward and walk backward, they can’t run backward.

Aubrac cow
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Can Horses Go Down Stairs?

Although they have four legs and a similar physical layout to cows, horses have more agile and flexible legs. They also carry less weight. As such, horses are capable of walking down stairs but, like cows, there is never a natural need for them to do so and it can take some persuasion and reassurance to get a horse down a flight of stairs.

Can Elephants Go Down Stairs?

There are many reasons why an elephant would struggle to walk down stairs, and not a lot of video evidence of them managing to do so. A single elephant foot can be as long as 19 inches, which is longer than the typical step, not to mention that an elephant can weigh around 5,000 kilograms, so only concrete stairs are strong enough to sustain its weight.

As a result of this incredible weight and size, elephants are not particularly agile and are not likely to try and attempt climbing down any set of stairs, although they will ascend or descend one or two steps.

What Animals Can’t Go Down Stairs?

Hooves are rigid, immobile, and more slippery than feet, and are part of the reason that some animals will, at least, struggle to walk down a flight of stairs. So, animals with hooves struggle with stairs. This includes cows and, to a lesser extent, horses. It also includes goats, sheep, and deer. Of course, those animals with no legs are also unable to descend stairs, which means animals like snakes.

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Is It Impossible For Cows To Go Down Stairs?

Although it is not entirely impossible, it is highly unlikely that you will see a cow walking down stairs. They are barely able to see the floor in front of them when on flat ground. They have poor depth perception, and their top-heavy weight distribution means that they are prone to falling forwards when leaning at too steep an angle.

Stairs are a problem for most hooved animals: horses are agile enough that they can manage stairs but would rather not. Goats, sheep, and other hoofed animals would not be able to come down stairs. This is hardly surprising because stairs have been designed for people and there are no stairs in nature.

Featured Image Credit: Cameron Watson, Shutterstock