Cow Hugging is the Wellness Trend 2020 Needs

Cow tipping is out and cow hugging is in. That’s right, in a year of unprecedented chaos and uncertainty, hugging a cow is the newest way to feel a little bit better and it’s becoming a growing wellness trend at the local dairy farm. 

Before you mooo-ve on over to your nearest cow and give it a hug, let’s dive into what cow hugging is exactly, where it came from, and why it might just help you forget about 2020 — for a brief second at least. 

Cow hugging is essentially, exactly what it sounds like, throwing your arms around one of the domesticated bovines and giving it a loving embrace for as long as you need. Or until the cow nudges you away to go back to grazing on grass. 

“Cows are very relaxed animals, they don’t fight, they don’t get in trouble,” a dairy farmer told the BBC about the stress-relieving activity. “You come to the fields and we have some special hugging cows and you can lay next to [them] — people think it’s very relaxing.”

Cow hugging, cow cuddling, cow spooning (?) or whatever else you want to call it originated in the Netherlands where it’s known as “koe knuffelen” in Dutch. The practice is based around the healing properties of animals. Much the same way that petting a dog can cheer you up when you’ve had a bad day, the idea is the same with cows — just on a much bigger scale. 

Farm owners in the Netherlands have been inviting people to hug their cattle for years and the therapy trend is now starting to catch on in the United States.

But why hug a cow?

It’s fair to say that for most people, a cow’s probably not the first animal they think of when it comes to “cuddly.” So how did cow hugging get started and why do cows have a special appeal when it comes to a hug? 

One farmer told the BBC that it started when their foster daughter walked out into the family’s pasture and gave a cow a hug. As for the appeal of cow hugging, well, the combination of the cow’s warm body temperature, massive size, and slower heartbeat all combine to result in an incredibly soothing experience.

Bella and Bonnie are two comfort cows in upstate New York at the Mountain Horse Farm that offer therapy to the bed and breakfast’s visitors. “It naturally relaxes you,” Suzanne Vullers, who hails from the Netherlands and runs the b&b farm, said. “A lot of people are looking for mindfulness. They’re looking for ways to calm down their head and their body. When you are with a large animal like that, they command your presence. … There’s no way you can be somewhere else when you’re with them because they’re so big. And that creates a natural mindfulness.”

Not every cow wants to have a random human come up and give it a warm embrace. “It’s not something that you can force upon the cow,” a farmer in the Netherlands said.” Some cows are simply open to it and others are not. 

Those cows that do make good cuddlers seem to enjoy the hugs and massages from humans just as much as the people. The cows will close their eyes and nuzzle into the person’s touch. A study from the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science even backed up that cows “show signs of pleasure and relaxation when people rub, massage, or pet them.”

Hugging (even a cow) is good for you

The benefits of hugging have been well-documented. A warm embrace helps to lower your stress level and can even boost the immune system. People who embrace hugging on a regular basis have found to experience sickness less often. While research hasn’t linked hugging a cow to any positive health benefits in humans, it can’t hurt, right?

Hugging a cow may not bring on the same feels as a hug from your grandmother, but those who have tried it seem to enjoy it. “It was surprisingly relaxing,” Brandon Hertel, who visited Mountain Horse Farm with his wife Sheryl, said. “You’d think interacting with a big animal wouldn’t be relaxing, but it is shockingly relaxing.”

“My heart was ready to explode. I loved it,” added Sheryl. 

Who’s to say how much cow hugging will catch on. Goat yoga was certainly a thing for a hot minute. Whether or not people flock in masses to their nearest dairy farm in search of a hug from a cow, isn’t really the point. Any sort of comfort that one can find in 2020 is certainly worth mooing about.

Photos via: YouTube (ABC, BBC)

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