We’re all familiar with cows, and we’re all familiar with cows mooing. It seems like they do it constantly! Have you ever wondered just why they moo so much, though? Are they communicating with us or each other? Are they mooing because they’re happy or because they’re upset? Who knows?

We do! Cows moo for a variety of reasons, including to communicate with each other and us, as well as to express emotions. Different moos mean different things, so basically, mooing is cow talk.


Why Do Cows Moo?

Cows moo for plenty of reasons, but primarily for communicating or expressing what they’re feeling. Did you know, though, that cows have different pitches for their moos that are used to express different emotions? And each individual cow has its own voice that’s distinctive. That means cows can recognize each other by their moos, and mama cows and calves can recognize the other’s call!

So, what are some of the exact reasons cows moo?

Cow mooing in the field
Image Credit: Pitsch, Pixabay

The 10 Reasons Why Cows Moo

1. Trying to Find Someone

Whether they are lost, another cow is lost, or they’re just looking to hang out with a friend or mate, cows will moo to locate each other.

2. Trying to Find a Friend

Because cows are social animals, they can form bonds with their herd mates—ones that can last for their entire lives. Cows are also animals that are often bought and sold, then moved to new locations. When cows get to their new homes, they often moo to try and find their friends from their last home.

Kuroge Wagyu cow
Image Credit: tkyszk, Shutterstock

3. Trying to Find a Mate

Not surprisingly, mooing is also a mating call in the world of cattle. Bulls and cows will communicate this way to let others know they are looking to engage in some romance.

4. Trying to Find Mom or Baby

When mama cows and calves lose track of one another, mooing will help them find their way back to each other. One study discovered that mothers separated from their babies made a louder than usual call that was higher pitched than average.  However, when the calves came into closer range, the mama cows’ call became lower in pitch, which seems to indicate the high-pitched mooing was to alert the babies they were missed.

As for the calves, they seemed to have a specific moo when they were hungry and couldn’t find mama. And, with cows having individual voices, it seems that mother and baby could recognize each other in general.

5. Expressing a Need

Sometimes cows moo because they are expressing a need or want. This is the type of moo they use to communicate with humans instead of other cows.

cow herd up close
Image Credit: Protocultura, Pixabay

6. Hunger

When it’s time for a cow to eat, they have no problem letting someone know. They will repeatedly moo until someone gets the message that it’s time for grain or hay.

7. The Need to be Milked

While cows are typically milked at the same time each day, sometimes people run late—and being late to get milked can be uncomfortable for the cow. When a cow becomes physically uncomfortable due to the need to be milked, they will moo incessantly to let a farmer know they need some help.

8. To Express Emotion

Since mooing is a form of communication, it makes sense that cows would also moo to express emotions.

guernsey cows
Image Credit: Vinai Suwanidcharoen, Shutterstock

9. Anger

When cows become angry, they will often let out a moo to let others (cow or human) know that it’s time to back off and leave them alone.

10. Discomfort or Stress

When a cow is in a situation it’s not comfortable with or is experiencing physical discomfort, you can expect to hear mooing. Happy cows don’t feel a need to moo, so if you’ve looked and found nothing else going on with your cow, they could be telling you they are too hot or too cold, or have been caught on something, or are feeling a bit squashed in the herd. Essentially, something is wrong, and they don’t like it.

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

What’s the Deal With Cows Mooing at Night?

It’s said that when coos moo at night (particularly after midnight) it’s an omen that someone close to you will die. Of course, this isn’t true; it’s simply an old wives’ tale. When cows moo at night, they are either mooing for one of the reasons above, such as hunger, stress or because they are lost. It may also be because they can sense a predator lurking about and are trying to warn other cows and the people who take care of them that something is up.

leaves divider leaf

Wrapping Up

It may seem that cows are mooing all the time for absolutely no reason at all, but that’s not the case! Cows use moos as a form of communication, and they can say a lot with these moos. Depending on how the moo sounds, they could be saying that they are upset, stressed, hungry, lost, lonely, or need a helping hand. Next time you’re out and about and hear a cow mooing, see if you can’t figure out what it’s trying to tell you.

Featured Image Credit: L0nd0ner, Pixabay