Have you hugged a cow today? A new health trend suggests you should! An activity originating in the Netherlands, koe knuffelen, or cow-hugging for non-Dutch-speakers, really beefs up the field of therapy animals. Like its name implies, cow-hugging invites stressed individuals to escape their urban anxieties by cuddling with a bovine buddy for a few hours at a time.
Before cuddling with cattle, cow-huggers are typically given a tour of the farm. They then take to the pasture in search of a cow to cuddle. After finding the perfect partner, they spend a few hours in the field bonding with their newfound friend. Human participants of cow-hugging typically recline against their cow, offering them hugs, pats, and kisses throughout the process.
Researchers have identified a wealth of benefits associated with this pastoral pastime. For human participants, cow-hugging is though to relieve stress. The cow’s behemoth build, warmer body temperature, and slow, soothing heartbeat helps increase the flow of oxytocin, a hormone responsible for reducing stress that is released during social bonding. While a boost in oxytocin can also be triggered by snuggling up with much more common household pets, many cow-cuddlers believe that a cow’s larger size exponentially increases the benefits of animal interaction.
Cow-hugging also offers several perks for its animal interactors. Animal behaviorists note that cows seem to genuinely enjoy snuggle sessions. Many cows lay down and stretch out across the grass during cow-hugging and allow their ears to drop, all signs that they are experiencing the same level of relaxation as their human counterparts. If a cow-hugger is lucky enough, their cow may even return their cuddles in the form of a lick!
Not only does cow-hugging promote mental wellness, but this unique breed of farmyard fun also helps to reconnect our industrialized society with nature. Many cow-huggers claim the atmosphere of the farm helps them feel closer to the earth, further increasing feelings of positivity and security.
Although confined to farms in the Netherlands for over a decade, cow-hugging is beginning to take root across the globe, especially in Sweden and the United States. The next time you feel overwhelmed by modern life, why not try cow-hugging?