Cows prefer face-to-face communication, critical research shows

Research from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna has discovered cows prefer live communication over recorded voices. Us too cows, us too.

It turns out cows are social animals despite what you might think, and research has shown cows are relaxed after being spoken to directly by a human versus listening to a recorded voice through a loudspeaker.

Cows are important creatures to many of us, so keeping them calm seems like a decent priority. Science has already proven we can keep cows safe by drawing eyes on their asses to warn off predators, but they also love having a good D&M while being stroked on the underside of their neck, new research from Austria has said.

Cow Research
Photo: University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Aninika Lange, a PHD student at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, conducted the study published in Frontiers in Psychology which suggests that talking to animals in person is “more relaxing for our animals than a recording of a human voice… Interactions may be less positive when they become artificial”.

Cows are extremely complex cow-moo-nicaters and have distinctive sounds to express excitement, loneliness, or when they’re keen for a feed. This doesn’t just apply across the cow-moo-nity (okay, I will stop now), but to humans as well. Calves learn to be responsive to their individual name and show preference to handlers who talk softly as opposed to loud and aggressive people. I’m starting to think I’m more cow than human, actually.

The study focused on a herd of 28 Heifer cows. The researchers would compare stroking the animals while playing a recording of someone’s voice while talking softly, versus stroking them while speaking to the animals face-to-face.

When relaxed and enjoying the interaction, the animals will often stretch out their necks as they do when they groom each other. Additionally, it’s thought that ear positions may indicate mood: “Hanging ears and low ear positions appear to be linked to relaxation,” said Lange.

In the age of lockdowns with anxiousness at an all time high, maybe this is something we should all consider if we have friends we’re able to check on. If you can, maybe you should go and turn up at a friend’s door instead of calling them, and maybe scratch the underside of their neck a little bit too.

After all, there are no wiser words than that of queen Lizzo: “Don’t text me, tell it straight to my face”.