The usual image that comes to mind when you think of cows is probably a peaceful herd drifting through a sunny field, grazing and swishing their tails. When it comes to animal athletes, cows probably don’t seem like they measure up in terms of speed or agility. But what about jumping ability?

Horse owners have to pay attention to how high their fences are but what about cattle owners? How high can a cow jump and could they jump a fence? In truth, they can jump at least 5 feet! Of course, it all depends on how high the fence is, but as far as motivation goes, they probably won’t want to. Read on to learn just how high cows can jump and why they usually prefer to keep their hooves planted on the ground.hoof print divider

How High Cows Can Jump

Despite what the nursery rhyme says, cows can’t jump high enough to clear the moon. However, many of them can jump as high as 5 feet, especially young cattle or larger breeds. In rare cases, cows can jump even higher, such as a British cow who was caught springing 6 feet up onto a roof.

In Finland, some cows are trained and ridden for jumping just like horses. At one of these exhibitions, a cow jumped an obstacle 7 feet high!

When they want to, cows can get up in the air and that includes getting over fences. However, the recommended minimum height for a cattle fence is only 54 inches. Just because cows can jump that high clearly doesn’t mean they are often inclined to do so. We’ll talk about some reasons why not next.


Why Cows Usually Don’t Jump

Limousin cow
Image Credit: artellliii72, Pixabay

1. It’s a Lot of Work

Cows that live and graze in a fenced field spend 7-12 hours of their day eating to meet their daily calorie requirements. The time they don’t spend grazing they are either resting or digesting their food. Running and jumping takes a lot of energy for cows just like it does for us, and they usually don’t seem to think it’s worth the effort.

2. They Might Get Hurt

Injuries and issues with their feet and legs are major problems for cows. For such large animals, their legs aren’t particularly sturdy and their hooves are sensitive. Any injury in these areas can be difficult to treat especially if it isn’t caught early.

It’s in a cow’s best interest not to do anything that might result in injury to its legs or feet. Depending on how high they’re leaping and what type of surface they’re landing on, jumping a fence could be quite risky for the cow. If they’re going to do it, they’ll probably need a good reason. This brings us to…

Reasons Cows Might Jump a Fence

Cows may leap for freedom if they feel scared or threatened, perhaps by a predator loose in their field. They might also try to jump over a fence to get back to their herd if they are separated for some reason. In some cases, cows could literally jump for greener pastures if they see a better food source on the other side of their fence.

Mother cows could jump over a fence to get to their calves if they are separated even for a short time. And of course, eager bulls could certainly jump to gain access to cows in heat.

How To Keep Cows From Jumping a Fence

With so many reasons why you don’t want cows jumping, how do you help make sure they keep their hooves on the ground?

Again, since most cattle just won’t want to jump very high, a minimum 54-inch high fence should be sufficient to keep them contained. Popular fencing materials include wire, barbed wire, electric fencing, and wood.

Another option, best suited for smaller areas, is to construct a completely solid fence that is tall enough to block the cows’ line of sight only. If the cows can’t see any reason to jump they probably won’t. This can also help keep cows calm if they’re working with people in a small, confined area.

Hedgerows, or thick hedges, are sometimes used as fencing, especially in the UK and Europe. The width of these structures serves as more of a jumping deterrent than the height.

For stubborn cows, some owners opt to use both a traditional fence and an interior electric fence to discourage jumping. Unfortunately, such stubborn bovines may find themselves out of a home or worse pretty quickly if they make themselves a nuisance.hoof print divider


While you shouldn’t expect every cow to be trying out for the high jump competition, many of them can jump higher than you might think, given their size. Thankfully, most cows lack motivation even if they have the physical ability to do so. Staying earthbound is the safest and easiest for both the cows and their owners. Cow owners can choose from a range of options to keep their cows properly contained, no matter their budget or the size of the herd.

Featured Image Credit: ventdusud, Shutterstock