Dubbed "koe knuffelen" in Dutch — which literally translates to "cow hugging" — the practice is based around the inherent healing properties of a good human-to-animal snuggle.
Sorry, goats. Looks like your time trotting over and around humans in various yoga poses appears to be coming to a close. A new animal wellness trend has emerged from the Netherlands in the form of cuddly cows with the promise of wiping away all human worries and stress. With their gentle head bobbing and immense cuddle appeal, these bovines have apparently been spreading serenity for at least over a decade now although the United States has only just caught up to this trend. Dubbed "koe knuffelen" in Dutch — which literally translates to "cow hugging" — the practice is based around the inherent healing properties of a good human-to-animal snuggle.
"Cows are very relaxed animals, they don't fight, they don't get in trouble," a farm owner in the Netherlands, who revealed she has been welcoming visitors for cow hugging for about 14 years, told BBC. "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." She revealed that it was a foster daughter who started the practice at the farm. "When the people come, we begin by the little calves and we [take] a tour around the farm. After that, we go to the field in the summer, and in winter, it's inside," she explained.
"Then we go hug the cows. Just do what the people want, and the cow wants in that moment," the farm owner added. Cow cuddlers typically rest on or hug one of the cows for two to three hours at a time, during which the animal's warmer body temperature, slower heartbeat, and mammoth size soothes them. They can also give the cows backrubs, reclining against them, or get licked as part of the therapeutic encounter. The practice is believed to promote positivity and reduce stress by boosting oxytocin — the hormone released in social bonding — in humans.
While it has long been common knowledge that curling up with a pet or emotional support animal has calming effects on humans, this phenomenon appears to be accentuated when cuddling with larger mammals. However, not all cows are huggable, and attempting to cuddle up to the wrong one might result in one being chased out of the farm by the large animal. "We have special hugging cows. It's not a trick, we learn them. It's something in their character," the farm owner explained. "A good hugging cow is normally a little bit older and very patient and she likes it."
Are you stressed out? Have you tried hugging a cow? https://t.co/dpQFZUpkM2— Gary and Shannon (@GaryandShannon) October 13, 2020
"From the beginning, from calf, you can see [whether] the character is good for a hugging cow. They have very different characters. We have one jealous cow [who] when she's not being hugged, she gets jealous," she added. "Some people just like to be outside and have some fun. Other people have something special with the cows. [A] lot of people are crazy about cows." Explaining the appeal of cow hugging, a visitor of the farm who experienced the benefits of the practice said: "I am born in a city so I am very fond of being in nature with animals. The cows are very patient, very sweet."
The practice is centred on the inherent healing properties of a good human-to-animal snuggle.— The Happy Broadcast (@happybcast) October 14, 2020
The cow’s warmer body temperature, slower heartbeat and mammoth size can make hugging them an incredibly soothing experience that is believed to promote positivity and reduce stress. pic.twitter.com/uOXSXryPjN
While cow cuddling started as a wholesome pastime, it has now reportedly become part of a wider Dutch movement to bring people closer to nature and country life. Farms in Rotterdam, Switzerland, and even the United States are now offering cow-hugging sessions and promoting the joy-inducing, stress-busting properties of the activity. Meanwhile, research suggests that cow hugging is good for the animals themselves too. A 2007 study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science states that cows "show signs of pleasure and relaxation when people rub, massage, or pet them. This knowledge could be of interest for an improvement in the quality of human–cattle interactions."