It’s a truism in the dairy industry that not all cows are created equal. If it’s not, it should be, especially now that cow hugging is here. It seems that some cows are born to be great milkers, some are born to be not so great hamburgers, and others, apparently, are born to provide sustenance that comes directly from the heart instead of the supermarket. And if cow hearts are as big as every other part of the animal, hugging a cow must be something like hugging the sum of one spouse, two parents, all your kids, and your dog. I’ll even throw in your favorite pillow and a tree or two. These cows much prefer the term ‘bovine therapist’ rather than ‘beef on the hoof’, and many people are now agreeing with them. For others it’s a matter of taste.
It may be either a source of pride or embarrassment that cow hugging originated with the Dutch, where it is called “koe knuffelen.” At least when it is not being called less flattering words. I have not seen less flattering words myself, so I can only hope the Dutch know what they’re talking about. I suspect they do because they are a people renowned for their tolerance. Anyone who has witnessed a ‘klompendanse,’ knows what I’m talking about. (Translated this means ‘clog dance,’ which doesn’t much improve things.) Some people suggest the Dutch exported both ideas to the U.S. as a way to test how tolerant Americans are.
When the Dutch came up with the idea for cow hugging, it was as part of a broader effort to get people to de-stress by connecting them with nature and country life. This might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but for a people from a country that is largely below sea level, and only a failed dike or a melted glacier away from being completely submerged by nature, it was a gross miscalculation. Enter the cows. It was as if they knew exactly what the people needed, or had no idea either what nature was supposed to look like anymore. It’s said that when you hug a cow, the only thing that floods is your emotions.
Well perhaps not the only thing, as anyone knows who gets too close to the back end of the animal. Doctors are now saying that hugging a cow also opens the flood gates on the happy hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in levels that hugging a hamburger can not approach. And that it also mitigates stress, anxiety, symptoms of depression, and sometimes even the urge to eat hamburgers. Much of this comes directly from a cow’s calm and gentle nature, as well as its large size, warm body temperature, and slower heartbeat. The cows motivation to keep away from the slaughterhouse can not be underestimated either. Though you currently can not obtain a prescription for it, it seems that cow hugs are just what the doctor ordered.
More and more farms across America are now offering bovine therapy sessions, and a chance to pet, brush, cuddle, meditate, or have a heartfelt chat with a cow. They are very patient and non-judgmental listeners, and in case you’re wondering, do not discriminate between meat eaters and vegetarians. Studies by animal behaviorists also reveal that the cows themselves show signs that they prefer this form of human interaction, as they will often spontaneously lay down beside the hugger, stretch out, and appear to relax. It is well known that other forms of human interaction tend to leave them flat. And often ready for grilling.
If cow hugging works for you, you may want to show your appreciation. A few kind words should be sufficient. But even if you’re on Old McDonald’s farm, never under any circumstances utter the word McDonalds. Also never show a cow photos of your trip to India, unless you’re prepared to buy its freedom, wash it periodically, dress it in flowers, and revere it as you would your own mother. Like people, they are very sensitive to inequality.
It may not be anytime soon that cows replace dogs in our hearts, but at the rate cow hugging is catching on, I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised to see more cows staking a claim to a place by the hearth next. That might be the time to consider registering your cow as an Emotional Support Animal. This will ensure that your cow is protected by the Fair Housing Act, and possibly by the Air Carrier Access Act. Those are two acts I would definitely pay to see.