You have probably seen viral videos of cows playing fetch with humans, getting belly rubs, cuddling with humans and other animals, and treating puppies like their own calf.

With some calling cows as “grass puppies”, it probably makes you wonder if cows and dogs really have more similarities than differences.

Do cows have feelings?

Cows, as well as other farmed animals, have a reputation of being void of emotion, unlike companion animals. It’s one of the reasons why some people hesitate to approach them, believing that the animal may attack them if given the chance, because they are not raised as companions but as food.

However, Dr. Marc Bekoff explained in his 2017 Psychology Today article that cows are actually emotional beings, just like companion animals. They can show fear and anxiety when threatened or exposed to stressful stimuli and they have their own way of showing positive emotions.

Mother’s woes

Cows in the dairy industry tend to show more eye white because they are exposed to stressful processes, especially when their calves are separated from them within the first 24 hours after birth. The calves are sold as veal, while the cows’ breast milk is harvested for human consumption.

Animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are known for conducting investigations that expose how mother cows shed tears and call out to their babies for hours after the calves are taken away from them.

Some mother cows may have the courage to attack farmers trying to take away their calves, and even run after trucks transporting their calves.

Big body with a big brain

Another popular misconception about cows is that they are dumber than companion animals.

Numerous studies prove that cows are intelligent animals who remember things for a very long time, including the friends they make. Sometimes, they hold grudges against other animals who treat them badly.

Not only cows

Cows are not the only animals who have many similarities with companion animals. Pigs, for example, are known as one of the most intelligent animals on Earth.

Pigs are said to be more intelligent than dogs, a fact that has made people adopt pigs as animal companions.

Why love one and eat the other?

If farmed animals and companion animals are smart, have feelings and a lot of similarities, why is it acceptable to eat pigs, chickens, and cows, but not cats and dogs?

The dog-and-cat meat trade is frowned upon because the treatment the animals get is horrifying. Cats and dogs bred and raised for meat are usually kept in small, dirty cages, and they become so stressed out that they attack each other and even practice cannibalism.

However, many undercover investigations, including those in “humane” farms, prove that animals bred and raised for their meat and by-products experience the same, if not worse, treatment as cats and dogs in the meat trade. These farmed animals also show the same disturbing behavior, yet are not given attention because what they experience is usually considered standard procedure.

Cows versus dogs

Happiness – You can tell if a dog is relaxed or happy when they wag their tails. But for cows, eyes and ears are the key. “Relaxed ear postures indicate cows are feeling okay,” says Bekoff. Additionally, “The less eye white that is seen, the better they feel.”

Sadness – Even though animals cannot fully convey their feelings because they do not speak the same language that we do, it is easy to spot a sad dog as they usually show their negative emotions by whining, whimpering, refusing food and treats, and having low energy. On the other hand, you can tell a cow is sad when you look at them closely. You can see the sadness in their eyes.
Party Animals – Dogs are not the only social animals in the animal kingdom. Mary Bates explained in her 2014 article on Wired that cows are also social, curious, and caring animals who love cuddling and showing affection. Research adds that cows need to interact with other animals for them not to develop anxiety and negative behaviors.

The will to live

Like companion animals, cows and other farmed animals are sentient beings who value their lives and do not want to die.

We may not understand animals due to language barriers, but their determination to survive is proof that they want to live – with some even going out of their way to flee from harm and to fight for their lives.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November 2019 issue.

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