- It might sound weird, but it keeps you from resorting to less healthy coping methods, we’re all for it.
Ever heard of goat yoga? You know, the kind where you do yoga while goats walk all around and over you?
Well, that’s not the latest, hippest animal-based wellness trend on the block anymore. Eat your heart out, goat yoga, these days it’s all about cow cuddling.
Well if in goat yoga you let goats walk on you, what do you do in cow cuddling? Exactly what it sounds like. You hug some cows.
During a session of cow cuddling, you are introduced to a cow. Then, you get to pet, hug, cuddle, snuggle, and talk to your bovine friend until the time runs out.
Sound weird? Maybe? But it actually helps people de-stress.
A cow-hugging session can produce several benefits, according to The Week. The cow’s warm body and slow heartbeat can promote positive thinking and reduce stress by releasing oxytocin in your brain.
Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone associated with social bonding. In a nutshell, cuddling a cow can make you feel loved.
So if you’ve been feeling like no one in this cruel, wretched world cares about you… Don’t be like that. The cow loves you.
An International Phenomenon
The bizarre cow cuddling tradition is thought to have originated in the Netherlands. Apparently, the Dutch have a tradition – though it might be very recent one – called koe knuffelen, translating literally to “cow hugging”.
There is a similar precedent to cow hugging called equine therapy. It’s pretty much the same thing, but instead of a cow you get to hang out with a horse.
However, cows have an edge over horses as cuddling partners. Horses will remain standing, while a cow can be surprisingly dog-like in its behavior. It will lay down, nuzzle you, and may even try to get on your lap.
Might want to try an avoid that last one. Unless you can handle hundreds of pounds of beef rolling into your arms.
Cow cuddling is not restricted to the Netherlands, either. Farms around Europe and the U.S. have hopped onto the snuggly bandwagon and started offering stressed folks the chance to come and hug an udder-ly lovable companion.
One such establishment is the Mountain Horse Farm, a B&B located near Naples, NY. Run by Suzanne and Rudi Vullers, the first encountered cow cuddling in their native Dutch environment.
When they then opened their B&B in 2007, the idea sat in the back of their mind. In 2018, they finally purchased Bonnie and Bella, two Highlander-Angus crossbreed cows.
The pair were picked for their gentle personalities and lack of mentionable horns. Both are good properties to have in a cuddle cow.
“A lot of cows are not suited for [cuddling]. They can chase you out of the field,” Rudi told The Independent.
No Pressure, Only Cuddles
At Mountain Horse, a two-person group can purchase an hour-long cow cuddling experience for $75. The cost will get you introduced to a cow at the farm, get you some info about your partner, and let you hug and cuddle to your heart’s content.
The cows at Mountain Horse are not raised for their meat or milk. Instead, Suzanne said that they get to enjoy a “natural life”. The cuddling sessions are a way to make ends meet.
The session will be watched by an animal therapist, who will observe the cuddle cow’s mood to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Meanwhile, another staff member will keep an eye on other animals in the field.
Suzanne said that no one participating has a psychology degree, but that’s not needed. The cow is at the center of everything.
“Whatever [the participants] are going through, they don’t have to talk about it. It’s not like therapy,” she added.
Instead, the Vullerses hope to instill a sense of hope and connection between cow and human. In many cases at the farm, the trick has worked.
But while nobody present at the cow cuddling has a scientific degree, science agrees that animal companionship can produce remarkable positive mental effects. A 2012 study confirmed that oxytocin could be at play in producing these effects.
The researchers, from several European universities, found that human-animal interaction improved the test subjects’ mood. It also lowered stress hormone levels, alongside self-reported levels of fear and anxiety.
Animal contact could even boost learning capability. Overall, the scientists observed “a positive effect of interactions with and observation of animals on self-reported anxiety and calmness, in particular under stress-prone conditions”.
Rub ‘Em Just Right
But it’s not only the people who may be benefitting from the bovine snuggles. The cows themselves might just be enjoying a good cuddle just as much.
According to a 2007 study, cows show signs of relaxation and happiness when they’re pet, rubbed, and massaged.
The study, carried out by French and Austrian scientists, discovered that when pet in the right places – those that their own kind might groom – cows relax so much that their heart rate drops significantly.
“This suggests that cows may in part perceive human stroking of body regions often-licked similarly to social licking,” the scientists said.
The relaxed cows would stretch out their necks and let their ears drop down – telltale signs of a happy, content cow – when scratched on the top of their backs and around their necks. You know, in case you ever decide to go cow cuddling.
“The results are in line with other studies in different species showing that animals’ behavioral and/or psychological responses to human tactile stimulation depend on the body region,” the study said.
So if you pet a cow and it doesn’t relax, the answer to the problem is simple. You just ain’t doing it right, baby.