What We Can Learn From Cows
Who would have thought that when it comes to qualities, it turns out that cows have a number of innate behaviors and social characteristics that translate really well into creating happy and healthy relationships in our species.
Driving by groups of cows now and then, I concluded that there really doesn’t seem to be much happening. They seem loosely together in a group, and pretty much chew and regurgitate. It kind of seemed to me that they are more solitary than herd-like. Then again, I have seen them walking in a line together without any humans directing the way. How does that happen? Is there an alpha cow who moos and signals time to punch out and head back home? Maybe if they had facial expressions it would be a little easier to get a read. Admit it, have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a cow? I recall driving up the Mendocino coast with my wife some years ago and noticed the cows grazing on prime ocean front property and wondered if they appreciated the view, we certainly hoped so. Maybe I think too much about cows? Nevertheless, I did some research.
I’ll try not to milk this fact too much (sorry, couldn’t resist), but if you look up “cow quotes”, you will discover a number of insights and perspectives on cow qualities that have pretty significant implications for relationship health and wellness.
Here are a few of some important cow quotes (taken from, Cow Quotes, at BrainyQuotes.com):
“The cow is a poem of compassion” – Mohandus (Mahatma) Gandhi
“Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.” - Thomas De Quincey
“Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows – and china.” – Charles Dickens
“There’s nothing like sitting back and talking to your cows.” – Russell Crowe
And my personal favorite:
“We have two dogs, Mabel and Wolf, and three cats at home, Charlie, George and Chairman. We have two cats on our farm, Tom and Little Sister, two horses, and two mini horses, Hannah and Tricky. We also have two cows, Holy and Madonna. And those are only the animals we let sleep in our bed.” – Ellen DeGeneres
Cows like to sleep close to their families and have been known to walk miles to find their calves. They actually do form close friendships, and can hold grudges and preferences in their social group. If a cow likes another cow, they will even baby-sit, or I guess I should say calve-sit. Research on cow social behavior points to the conclusion that cows excel at picking leaders. Also, they do communicate with different types of moos, apparently indicating a variety of emotions.Well, so much for the idea that not much is happening in the cow field other than chewing cud and adding contributions to the green house effect.
So what can we learn from cows about relationships? I really want to focus on their curiosity and gentleness. If in a relationship partners can hold a spirit of curiosity about their partner’s thought’s, reactions, and perspectives, then that relationship will likely go well. It can be easy to fall into our own reactions to what our partner is expressing before really understanding, much less validating, what our partner is saying. Cows are really curious and will explore and investigate everything. Imagine how your partner might feel if after sharing something with you, especially if was important to your partner, you were to embrace this attitude of curiosity, interest, and gentleness. It made me wonder about think of the expression “chewing the cud”. According to The Free Dictionary it is an idiom defined as “To think about something carefully, and for a long time.”
The things that lead to intimacy and trust: Taking your time to be curious, ask questions, and understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Without those qualities relationships are more likely to feel tense and uncomfortable. When couples get stuck in issues and try to problem-solve before really understanding why they are stuck, then the best option is to be like a curious cow. Rather than arguing your point or trying to solve the problem, put on a cow face if you can (they are cute), make it safe for your partner to share, then communicate compassionately what you hear.
If we put together chewing the cud with our partner, along with Gandhi’s take on cows as being a poem of compassion, well, I would say you are going to be an udder success with your partner. Oh, by the way, did you know that cows have an almost 360 degree panoramic view? That’s another pretty good metaphor for trying to take in the big perspective!