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The Growing Wellness Trend of Cow and Horse Cuddling

woman riding a horse

Koe knuffelen. This Dutch term roughly translates to “cow cuddling” or “cow hugging,” a wellness trend that has been circulating over the last few years. Hailing from across the world, this trend eventually made its way to the United States, introducing us all to the possibility of interacting with bovine and the therapeutic effect it can have on us. 

In those moments where we’re feeling overwhelmed by our emotions, we all need someone–or something–to lean on to destress. Beyond our moments of self-care, we can connect with nature at its finest and find comfort in our favorite farm animal.

What is cow cuddling?

Household pets. Goat yoga. Therapy dogs. Cow cuddling. 

Studies have shown that the bond that forms between people and their pets has a host of health benefits, including decreasing feelings of loneliness, increasing opportunities for socialization in our lives, and can even enhance our health.  Beyond our household pets, who become more like family in our lives, other studies have drawn correlations between human interaction with animals that influence our ability to trust, feel empathy, and can promote an overall positive mood. 

Though it’s believed that cow cuddling originated in the Netherlands, in Hinduism, the cow is revered as sacred, respected, and honored for centuries upon centuries. The trend itself? Well, it’s quite straightforward: humans participate in “cow cuddling” sessions wherein they are able to interact with a cow. Participants have the opportunity to spend time on the farm to reconnect with nature, before spending a moment in time with their cattle counterparts. This may entail hugging them, leaning on them, or being in their general presence, depending on what the animal is feeling up to that day.

What are its benefits?

Receiving a hug from another person already helps us reduce stress, so just imagine how embracing a cow would make us feel. Spoiler alert: it has the ability to help quite a bit! Cows are intelligent creatures, especially on an emotional level. Similar to humans, cows can feel a broad spectrum of emotions, including the same fears and anxieties that we are now turning to them to help alleviate. Studies have shown that they even display “emotional contagion,” mirroring emotions that they are exposed to. In addition to their range of emotions, cows can take on unique personalities–from shy all the way to social and bold–much like other creatures that exist on planet earth.

The act of cow hugging is an enjoyable experience, starting with the running body temperature of a cow. Typically, they run at 101 degrees Fahrenheit temperature, becoming a warm entity beside us. They also have a slow heartbeat, which creates a soothing experience as we embrace, or even lean against them. Cows have the ability to be emphatic, and nurturing, providing us with a safe space and companion to be able to work through our emotions and dispel our negative energies. Beyond aiding in the reduction of stress, much like a regular hug, the act can help promote positivity within ourselves and come out on the other end a better version of ourselves that day.

While we experience the stress-reducing and relaxing benefits of cow cuddling, it’s really a two-way street that benefits both parties. In fact, it can be great for the cows too. Scientists have discovered that cows are able to relax when they are pets in the areas they are typically groomed by one another, including their back, below the neck, and on the side of their chest.

Where can you experience it?

It’s time to head to the farm! There are farms and animal sanctuaries across the country offering cow cuddling to visitors. Though the sessions aren’t done frequently so as to not disturb or disrupt the cattle’s daily lives, jump on a waiting list and experience it for yourself!

Mountain Horse Farm, a horse and farm sanctuary in Naples, New York, offers guests a way to interact and connect with their herds of cows and horses in an effort to slow down, take a breath, and connect to the world around us. Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary offers plenty of face-time with their animals, from pig belly rubs, animal feeding, and animal snuggles across the board, including the chance to partake in cow cuddling as well. The Gentle Barn, with locations in Los Angeles, Nashville, and St. Louis offers cow hug therapy sessions to meditate with the animals and find a moment to center yourself for a more recharged state of being.

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