Rarely do you ever see a cow standing alone in a field. Usually, they are surrounded by their bovine companions. Of course, most places you see in passing that have cows are keeping them for the purposes of milk, meat, or breeding, which makes it obvious that they would have lots of cows. But can cows live alone and be happy? Here’s what you need to know about cows and companionship.


Can Cows Live Alone?

Can cows live alone? Of course. After all, you’re not likely to see cows dying simply from not having other cows around them. It’s important to remember, though, that physical health and wellbeing isn’t the only aspect of quality of life that should be considered when it comes to keeping animals. You may see some stress-related health issues arise with cows that are kept alone, but it’s not usually going to be an issue that causes death.

black and white cow near the pond
Image Credit: Pixabay

Is it Cruel to Keep Cows Alone?

This is the real question that people should be asking. It is cruel to keep cows alone because they are social animals with a higher level of emotional intelligence than they are usually given credit for. Cows are herd animals, which means that being kept alone can lead to stress, loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. In fact, cows should almost always be kept with other cows. Keeping a lone cow in your pasture will almost certainly cause the cow to develop behavioral problems or emotional distress.

Keeping a cow with other types of animals may suffice, but it’s likely to work best if the cow was raised with those other animals and sees them as its herd. For example, a bottle-fed calf that has spent its entire life with a herd of horses or flock of sheep is more likely to feel safe and secure without other cows around than a cow will that has been raised around other cows but has been taken from them. Simply offering human interaction will rarely suffice for a cow, regardless of the environment it was raised in.

brown cow grazing alone
Image Credit: Pixabay

Why Won’t Human Interaction Suffice for a Cow?

There are a few issues with attempting to meet a cow’s social needs through human interaction alone. The primary problem is that most humans can’t be around all the time. People have jobs and responsibilities. Generally, people can’t spend every minute of every day in the pasture with the cow, and it’s unlikely that your cow will be coming into your home.

Imagine every time you’ve seen cows in a big field. Even when a cow is away from the herd and alone, it’s not really alone. It’s usually still within sight and smell of the rest of the herd, which is comforting and reassuring to the cow. It’s inevitable that you will have to leave your cow’s side, leaving the cow alone and stressed.

The other big issue with human interactions with cows is that humans and cows interact with their peers differently. The social dynamics are very different between humans and cows. Cows can communicate with each other through body language and different sounds, while humans are physically different enough from cows that our body language can be confusing to the animals. Obviously, most people can’t have entire mooing conversations with cows, so verbal communication is off the table as well.


In Conclusion

Keep in mind that not all cows are the same. There are going to be some cows you may come across who are perfectly content to live alone or with non-bovine companions. However, it’s generally not recommended. There are circumstances that may arise that could lead to a cow being kept alone for its own health and safety, or the health and safety of the rest of the herd.

Intentionally attempting to keep a singular cow could be viewed as cruel, though, especially if the cow has spent time with other cows and is comfortable with their presence. If you’re planning to add a cow to your property, it’s a better idea to add at least two cows. Ideally, you should add a small group of cows that can function together as a small herd. This will give your cows the best chance at being happy, healthy, and well-adjusted animals. 

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay