Created | Updated Jan 13, 2012
A ruminant cloven-footed quadruped, the cow is the female member of the ox family. The male of the family is the bull, whilst a steer is a young male calf or a castrated male. A young female cow is called a heifer.
A cow spends a third of its life eating and ruminating - that's chewing the cud - and the remaining time just resting and digesting. Dairy cows have to be milked at least twice a day. They usually come in to be milked of their own accord, despite being naturally afraid of people. Cows are generally very calm, but have been known to kill people by trampling on them when they are panicked, often by small dogs, so beware. If you want to move a cow you have to stand and push, or pull on the tail.
Cows have four stomachs, two horns, a tail and half a brain... well, perhaps not half a brain, but they are not terribly clever animals. Most of a cow's grey matter is occupied just moving the cow around its natural habitat, a grassy field, occasionally uttering a low-pitched moo.
Some cows are rather more active, though. Bulls are sometimes used in some countries for sports such as bullfighting or bull runs 1. Some southwestern regions of the United States use bulls for rodeos, in which cowboys attempt to remain on a bucking bull's back long enough to impress other cowboys.
There are many different types of the calm kind of cow. There are black and white Friesian cows with pink noses, and golden-yellow Jersey cows with black noses. Both of these are thought of as terribly good milking cows, and Jersey cows are known for their rich and creamy milk, which is delicious poured chilled on cereal at breakfast time.
Cows produce cow pats. This is the ploppy poo deposited by cows in neat circles approximately the size of a dinner plate. They present a hazard to walkers in their semi-liquid state, but when fully sun-dried are relatively inoffensive and can be used as fuel. Visitors to countries like India can sample the delights of row upon row of hand-shaped cow pats drying in the sun, ready for cooking the evening meal.
It is worth noting that the cow is sacred to Hindus, who let cows roam free through the streets of their towns. This means that India is one of the last major countries where it is impossible to buy a McDonald's hamburger.