The domesticated cow is the most common farm animal in the world. They belong to the family “bovidae” and are related to antelopes, goats, and sheep.
Cows are ungulates – hoofed animals with two toes on each foot. They are kept in most of the world for the milk and meat.
Today there are two forms of cows: humped and unhumped cattle. Humped cattle come from east Asia and unhumped come from western Eurasia.
Where Do They Live?
Cows were first domesticated between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. Today they are found wherever humans are.
The largest collection of cows is found in India, Brazil, and China.
As cows were domesticated, different breeds were created for different purposes.
What Do They Look Like?
The size of a cow depends on the breed. They can weigh between 1,000 – 4,000 pounds.
All cows have horns. Some breeds have small horns, while others can have very long ones. Most cows have their horns removed at birth.
Cows are known for their udders. Udders are milk producing glands that have four teats.
Cows have large, wide mouths that allow them to graze on grass. They have 32 teeth, and the front of their mouth has a gummy pad that allows them to pull grass from the ground.
What Do They Eat?
Cows are grazing animals that eat grass. They have a special four chambered stomach that allows them to eat a large amount of grass.
Cows spend 6 hours a day eating. They spend 8 hours a day chewing.
Plant fibers are difficult to digest, and a cow’s stomach helps them break down the difficult to digest parts. They do this by regurgitating their food several times. Cows can then rechew food that hasn’t been broken down enough.
Humans and Cows
Humans have relied on cows for thousands of years. They are possibly the oldest form of wealth.
Cows have been valuable for their variety of purposes. Humans have kept cows for milk and other dairy products, leather, work uses, and meat.
In some countries such as India cows hold a religious place in society. They take part in religious ceremonies and are considered sacred.
There are an estimated 1.2 billion cows in the world, with 920 breeds.
The average cow is 2 years old when it can breed. A baby cow is called a calf. Calves drink their mother’s milk for the first 8 or 9 weeks of its life.
A young female cow is called a heifer. A young male cow is called a bull calf. A male cow is called a bull.
Cows usually give birth to one calf, though twins are possible. It is possible for cows to have ten or more calves over their life.
Cows can live to be over 20 years old.
- 90% of the world’s milk supply comes from cows
- The main stomach of a cow can hold 50 gallons of food
- The partially digested food of a cow is called cud
- A cow will stand up and sit down about 14 times a day
- Cows can smell up to 6 miles away
- The oldest recorded cow lived to be nearly 49 years old
- There is an average of 1 bull for every 30 cows in a herd