If you have come across cattle, you may have noticed them standing while their eyes are closed. In this state, are they actually sleeping?

Cows don’t sleep while standing up. A cow will only fall into a deep sleep while lying down, contrary to popular belief. However, it can close its eyes and enter a restful state while standing. This is what many people confuse with a cow sleeping while standing up.

In this article, we get to explore more about how cows sleep. Also, we can learn which animals do sleep when standing up. Read on, and let’s explore more about these magnificent creatures.

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How Do Cows Sleep?

Young brown and white cow sleeping in the grass
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Contrary to popular belief, cows sleep while lying down. If you come across a cow with its eyes shut while standing, the animal is still awake. They might just be resting while chewing cud. So, make no mistake of trying to sneak up on them at that moment.

One surprising fact is cows are some of the animals that require little sleep. They might lie down for a little while to get some sleep. But you can walk around at night and find them standing up and fully awake.

Though cows are domesticated animals, they’re part of the class that falls prey to predators. It means such animals always have to be alert in case of approaching danger. This survival mechanism means a cow can only spend an hour or two sleeping. The rest of the time, it’s standing up and alert to its environment.

Some cows can be lying down but are still quite aware of their surroundings. They do this in the afternoon to conserve energy.

Do Cows Sleep With Their Heads on the Ground?

Cows can take short naps throughout the day, which is why you often find them lying down with eyes closed. However, at some point, they have to get some deep sleep. This is the NREM (Non-rapid eye movement) stage.

The cow lays completely down and, for an hour or two, sleeps soundly. You notice their head is no longer raised up and is laid on their body. Cows don’t place their heads on the ground while sleeping. Most animals don’t do this, especially those with big bodies. During the deep sleep stage, the cow can restore its energy and let digestion take place.

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How Long Do Cows Sleep?

White cows sleeping on the hill
Image Credit: dendoktoor, Pixabay

A cow can sleep an average of 1 to 4 hours a day, with 4 being the absolute maximum. Most cows have about 2 hours of NREM sleep in a day. Even if the cow sleeps for 4 hours, it will spread them in intervals throughout the day.

Most cows can’t maximize the 4-hour sleep patterns at night, so you find most awake and alert. The little naps and sleep they take during the day mean at night they aren’t too tired. They can sleep for an hour or two, but that’s it.

Cow naps during the day take about 5 to 10 minutes. During these naps, the cow can be standing with its eyes closed or lying down. It’s a state of drowsing which means they’re relaxed and slightly awake. If you approach a drowsing cow, they tend to open their eyes even before you get close.

When you want your cows to get enough NREM sleep, give them space. Cows in small spaces tend to take more naps since they don’t have sufficient room for deep sleep. Ensure your cow has ample space for them to relax and move from naps to deep sleep when they need to do so.

If you don’t provide them with ample space, your cows can suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can hinder their development and productivity. Therefore, open fields are the best for them. But, you can still build an excellent zero-grazing space with lots of space. Here is where they’ll move about, lie down and rest.

Do Cows Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Cows, like people, don’t sleep with their eyes open. Even when taking a short nap, a cow has to close its eyes for this to happen. Some cows even start drowsing when standing up, but you notice their eyelids are slowly shutting.

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How Long Do Cows Stand Up?

Montbeliarde cows
Image Credit: Clara Bastian, Shutterstock

Cows are quite resilient creatures. Picture yourself standing up for almost 10 hours each day? Well, that’s cows for you.

These domesticated animals only lay down when they need to rest and conserve energy for a moment. The rest of the time, they’re standing up and probably chewing curd. Cows are prey in the animal kingdom despite living at home with us.

That’s why, like many other herbivores, they spend so much time on their feet. It’s the easiest way for them to respond to any sign of danger.

Can Cows See at Night?

While a cow can’t see in total darkness, it can see clearly in low light. They tend to have an excellent vision which is why they can see at night. All they need is a little bit of light, and they can roam around in the fields.

Cows can use the stars or other smaller light sources available. But, they tend to stand still or lay down in total darkness. Each cow’s eye has an additional reflective layer behind its retina. It’s known as the tapetum lucidum and makes it easier for them to see in low light.

When light passes through a cow’s retina, it’s reflected outwards. The light then passes through the retina once more. Here is where the light receptor cells absorb it a second time. Simply put, the cow’s eyes can process the light twice and can see things that other animals can’t see in the dark.

Apart from cows, other animals can see well in low light situations include house cats, owls, bats, pit vipers, snow leopard, fox, night jar, raccoon, dung beetle, and black-footed ferret.

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Top 4 Reasons Cows Moo at Night:

Imagine hearing a cow moo in the middle of the night waking you up. The common notion is the cows are resting or asleep when you go to bed, right. But, at times, cows tend to moo at night. Some of the reasons behind this behavior are:

1. The Cows are Lost

Cow mooing in the field
Image Credit: Pitsch, Pixabay

While cows tend to see well in low light, they’re completely blind in total darkness. For instance, if cows wander into a wooded area in the middle of the night, they can get lost. The moo is a cry for help because they can’t find their way out.

Also, a cow mooing alone in the distance is trying to find its herd. Perhaps it got separated from the rest and can’t seem to locate the direction they went towards. Several loud moos can trigger the herd to call back and help them find their way.

2. The Cow is Hurt

Moving about in the dark is dangerous for a cow. They can easily bump into something and hurt themselves. If they give off relentless moos, it’s best to get up and check if something is wrong.

3. The Cow Senses Danger

Portrait of brown cow mooing
Image Credit: L0nd0ner, Pixabay

Just because a cow is domesticated doesn’t mean it lacks predators. Some predators are quite bold and wander into farms and ranches to hunt calves and cows. A moo in the middle of the night can be because the cow senses approaching danger.

4. To Locate Their Calf

Mothers tend to cry out when they can’t find their young. This is true for all animals, including cows. When a cow can’t find her calf, she’ll call out until she does. There’s a lot of mooing on a farm when the farmer separates calves from their mothers.

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Are There Animals that Sleep While Standing Up?

Cow standing with eyes closed
Image Credit: Schanin, Pixabay

As stated above, cows tend to nap while standing up, but they have to lie down to get quality rest. However, some animals sleep while standing up. These animals have special adaptations that make this possible, which isn’t the case in cows.

Animals that sleep when standing up have the stay apparatus. It’s a series of ligaments, muscles, and tendons in large herbivores. The animals tend to lock their joints and relax muscles before falling into a deep sleep.

In addition, these animals tend to manipulate gravity by sleeping on one leg. They place the leg directly under their center of mass, changing their balance. Also, this is the best way for them to localize gravitational pressure.

Animals that sleep comfortably while standing up include flamingoes, horses, elephants, crows, giraffes, rhinos, stocks, camels, deer, donkeys, and gazelles.

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While cows tend to nap and seem a little tired when standing, this isn’t how they sleep. Cows have to be lying down to enter into a deep sleep state. In that position, they can sleep up to 4 hours a day. But, it’s worth noting that these hours are spread throughout the day.

The other hours, cows are standing up and fully alert to their surroundings. This is why it’s hard to sneak up on a cow without the animal sensing your presence. Due to their prey survival mechanism, even in a deep sleep, they’re still somewhat aware.

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Featured Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay