What is the go with cows?  Why is it they are so curious?

Who is studying who?

On our recent walks along the Heysen trail, we have regularly encountered cows, who seem to be continuously curious about us.  Now this is not unusual as anyone who lives with or around cows know about their curiosity, but what I want to know is, why?

From all reports the world over, their intelligence appears not to be too great. Better than sheep, but not as smart as horses or pigs.  Some say they have been smart in the past, however most of their intelligence has probably been bred out to ensure they are docile compliant farm animals.   There has been about 9,000 years of breeding the domestic cow so this could be true, and the number of different breeds is extensive. See here for just a few.  I am sure prior to domestication they would have been able to fend off predators. Something they are clearly not capable of doing currently.

Brahma’s in South Australia

Cows in India though, do show some intelligence. In urban areas many households have a cow, but due to land restrictions, the cow is apparently just let out in the morning to find food and water before returning home all on it’s own.   In some of these very densely populated areas, it is a wonder that the animals can find their way home, and as one observer noted, why would they return if the owner was not feeding it?

Perhaps, given that  cows pretty much just eat, poo, and get milked (for those dairy types), maybe, just maybe, they are just bored and are keen to break up their mono stylisitic life with a bit of interest in whatever comes along.

It is kind of interesting though that their timidness is matched equally by their inquisitive nature.   As the following video demonstrates beautifully.

These cows followed us for about a kilometre without us knowing. It was like they were pranking us.

There is another line of thought that presents them as being very “knowing” and intelligent. There ability to learn and remember not only up to 100 members of it’s own herd but also other animals including humans. They are able to be taught to perform tasks, especially when it comes to getting food or water.  But most of all is the clear desire, apparent in some of them to preserve their own lives.  Some well documented cases show how cows dramatically escape when faced with transport to the abattoirs, and managing to stay on the run for days or weeks.

Is it just that they are just a truly passive animal, and so, unable to “fight” against humans and others to survive when faced with danger.  Perhaps there is intelligence behind their curiousness, but this is just masked by their passive nature.  I know for one I will not look at a cow the same ever again.

I kinda wonder, if cows had hands would they applaud after?

JTF

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