The secret lives of cows

The secret lives of cows
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Cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges.Jonathan Leake, Science Editor, The Sunday Times

Have you ever seen a cow put her problem solving skills to the test? Or heard of cows who like jazz? No? Then prepare to be amazed! Behind the doe-eyed gaze of these unique individuals lies a hidden depth that might surprise you.

They’re individuals.

No two cows are alike — some are bold, some timid, some curious, some affectionate. Research has shown that from a young age, calves each react very differently to stimuli in their surroundings — reflecting their individual likes, dislikes and personality.

They’re smart.

Cows can solve puzzles. What's more, they enjoy it! When they work out the solution to a problem, one study found that young heifers would get excited, some even jumping into the air — seemingly in celebration of their Eureka moment. Researchers are finding that cattle are far more intelligent than people give them credit for – and may actually possess heightened brain function and decision-making abilities.

These are highly developed mammals that have been solving problems for a long, long time. If anything, it reflects poorly on us that we're surprised that these animals are smart. Of course these animals are smart.Dr. Daniel Weary, Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia
They have best friends.

In fact, they're quite the socialites. They seek out and nurture relationships with other individuals in the herd — often forming cooperative grooming partnerships. When separated from their best buddy, they become stressed.

They have leaders.

What do cows look for in a leader? Much the same things as us. Studies have suggested that intelligence, inquisitiveness, confidence, experience and good social skills all help to determine who will become the leader within a herd.

They are loving and protective mums.

Like humans, a mother cow and her calf share a strong and special bond — one that can form within minutes of birth. When mother cows and their calves are left to live a natural life, the calf will suckle from his mother for several months, even up to a year. Research has shown that adult cows remain deeply affected by the emotional pain of being separated as calves from their mothers, which is standard practice in the dairy industry.

Their kids are kind of like ours.

In all the best ways, calves are a lot like kids! They’re cheeky, and super playful. When they want to play, they will signal to each other with their tails and a special call — so that it's clear they mean no harm when mimicking the behaviour of adult cattle.

They enjoy music.

Researchers now believe that music with a slow tempo reduces cows' stress levels. It seems that jazz isn't off the playlist just yet either though ...


Stand up for cows!

Make your choices count: Cows are intelligent, social and emotional animals, but these aren't the only reasons they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. The fact that they are living, feeling beings capable of experiencing joy, pain and fear is reason enough.

The most effective way to help these gentle and affectionate animals is by choosing not to eat them. With so many delicious animal-free alternatives now available, it’s no wonder that more people are choosing to incorporate more plant-based food into their lives. Why not give it a try?

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