It’s probably a major understatement to say that most people don’t know very much about cows. After all, they’re primarily livestock animals that aren’t typically kept as pets. However, cows are very important to many societies, providing everything from meat to milk and from pet food to home décor. They are more intelligent than most people often give them credit for and spending time with or keeping cows can be enjoyable and rewarding. To clear the air about cows, here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions that people have about cows and the truth.


The 10 Biggest Cow Myths and Misconceptions:

1. Cows are bad for the environment.

Although cows create quite a large quantity of greenhouse gases, with a single bovine creating around 220 pounds of methane gas annually. However, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency in a study released in 2016, the entire agriculture industry accounted for 9% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity and transportation both accounted for 28% each, though.

Cow standing in the grassy field
Image Credit: AnitaBozic, Pixabay

2. Manure is only good for feeding plants.

Scientists have been working hard to find better ways to use cow manure. Since cow manure is rich in cellulose due to cows’ high fiber diet, it can actually be used to create paper. In fact, this paper is easier to make than traditional paper because cows have already done most of the process of breaking down the cellulose into a usable form, as opposed to creating paper from scratch, which involves mechanically breaking down the cellulose.

3. Cows aren’t dangerous.

Believe it or not, domestic cows are responsible for multiple deaths every year. In fact, domestic cows kill around 20 – 22 people annually. Although it isn’t a large number of people, to put this information into perspective, you should know that sharks only kill around 10 people annually. For what it’s worth, though, farmers who treat their cows kindly are less likely to be injured by their cattle than those who treat their cows harshly or whose cattle do not learn to trust them.

Limousin cow
Image Credit: artellliii72, Pixabay

4. Cows have four stomachs.

This one is a common misconception that arises from confusion surrounding the digestive system of ruminants. Cows only have one stomach but that stomach consists of four separate compartments. Ruminants’ stomachs consist of the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum. Each compartment plays a vital role in digestion and ensuring cows are able to pull as many nutrients as possible from the food they consume.

5. Cows are wasting land that could be used for agriculture.

Thankfully, most farmers aren’t wasting high-quality land that could be used to grow produce on raising cows. Most cows are raised on land that is not good for other agricultural purposes for various reasons, including poor soil quality, temperature and humidity, and other environmental factors.

Zebu cow near a wire fence
Image Credit: ArtTower, Pixabay

6. All bovines are cows.

Not all domestic bovines are cows. Technically, a cow is a female bovine that has given birth to at least one offspring. A heifer is a female bovine that hasn’t given birth to any offspring, while a bred heifer is a pregnant heifer. An intact male bovine is a bull, while a castrated male bovine is a steer.

7. Cows produce the same amount of milk no matter what.

Happy cows produce more milk, according to science. In fact, cows that feel safe and comfortable with their handlers and that have been shown affection and given names are more likely to produce more milk than stressed, frightened, or generally unhappy cows. Stressed and unhappy cows have higher levels of cortisol, which is a hormone associated with stress. Cortisol can inhibit the production of milk, decreasing or stopping output altogether.

cow's milk
Image Credit: Piqsels

8. Bulls get angry when they see red.

Like all bovines, bulls are red/green colorblind. This means that they are not able to differentiate between shades of reds, greens, and even oranges and browns. They may also struggle to determine the difference between shades of blues and purples due to their inability to see the red component of these colors. When a bull fighter works to rile up a bull, he succeeds through the movement of the cloth, not the color itself. A cloth of any color would suffice in upsetting a bull, especially a stressed bull. The traditional red color associated with bull fighting is actually used to disguise the bull’s blood on the cloth and the matador’s clothing.

9. Only bulls have horns.

Whether a bovine has horns or not is not fully determined by its sex. The breed of the cow will also determine whether females will have horns or not. Some cattle are naturally polled, or hornless, regardless of sex, like the Angus, Brangus, and Galloway. Other breeds can be naturally horned regardless of sex, like the Longhorn, the Highland, and the Hereford.

Scottish highland cow grazing
Image Credit: Stelogic, Pixabay

10. Cow tipping is a fun pastime.

This should come as no surprise, but a 1,500-pound animal is not easy to tip over! Add onto that how distrusting cows can be of strangers and the fact that they usually sleep lying down, and you’ve got a recipe for cow tipping being little more than an urban legend. That’s not to say that some people haven’t attempted cow tipping, but the majority of cows aren’t going to be on board with being startled in the dark and knocked over. If you think attempting cow tipping might be a good idea, refer back to myth #3.


In Conclusion

Did you learn anything you didn’t already know about cows? Cows are lovely animals that fill a need for many types of products. Cows are usually gentle animals when they are cared for, but they are large and powerful, so it’s important not to underestimate them. Things like cow tipping and trespassing into pastures can lead to injury or death, so make sure to treat any cows you encounter with respect and kindness.

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