We know that cats, dogs, birds, horses, to name a few of our pets, have their own individually defined personalities. So why not cows!
Researchers say yes. That’s no surprise to dairy farmers who spend enough time with their cows to be able to tell you who’s the boss, which ones are friendly and which to avoid.
The main reason for these studies is financial. A stressed cow may not produce milk.
So cows establish their own heirarchy. There are the bossy cows who will push their way in to feed first. They will choose their stalls in the barn and what other cows they will rest near. Their social order determines who enters the barn first and who the leader is when going outdoors. Cows of the same social class will only associate with each other.
Scientists have found that social standing in the herd does not affect the amount of milk produced – luckily for the cows.
On a personal note: I know first hand that cows have likes and dislikes. One of my uncles owned a dairy farm and raised Jersey cows, the ones with pretty faces. He gave names to all his cows and Valentine was one, named for the white heart shape on her face. Although I couldn’t interpret the meaning, every time I was in the field, she would make a beeline for me and butt me. I like to think it was a playful action but who knows. Maybe one day we’ll be able to tell what a cow has on her mind.