Hugging a cow is good for anxiety, says science

2 mins
01 Aug 2022
Hugging a cow is good for anxiety, says science

Goat yoga walked so cow therapy could run

image Doruk Yemenici via unsplash

words Eve Walker

You might have heard of baby goat yoga or cat cafes, but cow therapy is the next big thing. Snuggle up with your new bovine BFF, because according to some psychological studies, cow therapy is great for easing your anxiety.

With warmer body temperatures than humans and slower heartbeats, hugging cows can be an incredibly soothing experience. Contact with animals has been proven time and time again in studies to boost our oxytocin levels – the so-called “love hormone” released in social bonding, as well as lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety levels.

According to California-based nonprofit The Gentle Barn, cow-hugging therapy can help with a plethora of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and compassion fatigue.

The charity was founded by special education and psychology major Ellie Laks in 1999, on a half-acre property in the middle of California's San Fernando Valley.

Laks says: “If someone needs healing, the cows wrap them in a really good hug with their necks. Cows are very centred, grounded and immersed in the present time and they help us do the same.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any cuter, it turns out the experience is nourishing for the cows too. A 2007 study in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science states that cows seem to be deeply relaxed during encounters.

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Laks explains that the process is a mutually beneficial experience, “The cows close their eyes and meditate, the people close their eyes and ground themselves, get centred and still, and both human and animal can find themselves together in that moment, to create strength, hope and inspiration for them both.”

The Gentle Barn has since rolled out its locations to Nashville, Tennessee, and St. Louis, with hopes to open a branch in every state.

It appears cow hugging is gaining moo-mentum as a wellness trend (sorry) in recent years. It‘s been popular in the Netherlands for over a decade, and the UK has since followed suit. The Ahimsa Dairy Foundation based in Leicestershire village offers similar experience, alongside cow-brushing and walking with the animals too. Can we sign up now? Moo-ve out of our way!

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