Two jersey cows grazing. Image copyright Gideon Mendel and World Animal Protection

New research is music to cows’ ears


With your support, we are learning how cows can communicate their emotions; building knowledge that can help revolutionise the treatment of farm animals.

As people who care about animals, we know the importance of animals feeling secure and happy, none more so than the billions of farm animals across the world. The problem is animals cannot tell us what they are feeling, but our UK team has now revealed that cows can express their emotions through their ears.

Over three months, we studied how cows move their ears in response to them being stroked. This revealed, not only that cows love a good ear rub, but when they are relaxed their ears take on a different posture, to when they are more alert or not as happy.

We hope this ground breaking study will help farmers understand how their animals are feeling. It will also assist farm inspectors to assess the well-being of farm animals – ultimately improving the lives of cows.

Stroking cows has been shown to calm them down, lower their heart rate and reduce stress. We now know that when cows are in this calmer state they can show us through their ears.

There is still a lot of work to do, but this research shows that animals can communicate in many different ways. We just need to learn how - so together we can help animals live a better quality of life.

Watch an interview about this study with Helen Proctor from World Animal Protection on our Animal Mosaic website.

Image © World Animal Protection/Gideon Mendel