New Study: Adolescent Cows Get Moody Like Human Teenagers

According to a new study published in Royal Society Open Science, human teenagers and adolescent cows have something in common—they both get moody.

While research shows that calves and adults tend to have fairly stable reactions to being placed in new situations, the same is not true of adolescents. The study focused on Holstein cows in the dairy industry. Researchers observed them from before they were weaned to shortly after they became pregnant with their second babies.

During this period, the cows were exposed to new environments, people, and objects. Researchers distinguished two prevailing personalities from their reactions: assertive (or bold) and exploratory (or shy).

The study’s senior author, Marina von Keyserlingk, stated:
Different individuals will react in different ways. For instance, some calves and cows will immediately approach and investigate the object or human, or explore the new environment, while others will never touch the object or human and stand still for the duration of the test.
While baby and adult cows tended to react either boldly or more cautiously, adolescent cows between six and eight months of age were much more erratic. Just like human teenagers, cows endure emotional turbulence as they reach sexual maturity. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, told the Guardian:
In the end, it tells us that if cows and humans share so much of their psychology with each other, we need to look at cows as beings who also have feelings about being farmed and having their children taken away from them in the dairy industry.
Research has already shown that cows use self-identifying sounds to communicate with their babies. But a recent study published in Scientific Reports reveals that they also use special sounds to convey their identity and specific emotions throughout their lives. Researchers analyzed 333 samples of cow vocalizations and found that cows use distinct moos to express feelings like excitement, arousal, and distress.

Lead researcher Alexandra Green stated:
Cows are gregarious, social animals. In one sense it isn’t surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life and not just during mother-calf imprinting. But this is the first time we have been able to analyze voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait.
Just like humans, cows have rich emotions and complex social lives. They deserve to live happily, free from cruelty and suffering. Make a difference for cows by downloading our FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide and checking out our Pinterest page for thousands of vegan recipes!