I grew up on a farm with sheep and chickens, adjacent to an uncle’s farm that had dairy cattle. So the headline “Is Cow Hugging the World’s New Wellness Trend?” on BBC Travel certainly caught my attention (https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20201008-is-cow-hugging-the-worlds-new-wellness-trend?).
Most would agree that animals, usually in the form of personal pets, can provide calming benefits and reduce everyday stress; that’s why we invented emotional support animals. So wouldn’t a larger animal enhance the effect? I’ve heard of people who claim many positive benefits from being around horses. But the Dutch have taken this idea to the next level with cows.
This idea actually germinated in rural Dutch provinces over a decade ago, and is now part of a wider movement to bring people closer to nature. Called “koe knuffelen” in Dutch (which literally translates to “cow hugging”), the practice is based on the healing properties of a good human-to-animal snuggle. Cow cuddlers usually begin with a tour of the farm before resting against one of the cows for up to three hours. The bovine’s warmer body temperature, slower heartbeat and huge size can make hugging them a deeply soothing experience. Cows also like backrubs and being laid against. All this enhances the human experience. If you’re really lucky, you’ll even get licked!
Cuddling appears to also be pleasurable for the cows. A 2007 study in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science states that cows show cues of deep relaxation, like stretching out and allowing their ears to fall back when massaged in particular areas of their neck and upper back.
Today, you can find farms in The Netherlands, Switzerland and even the United States that offer cow-hugging sessions. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by life, consider cuddling a cow.