Social Question

Bellatrix's avatar

Do farm animals have preferences for who they spend time with?

Asked by Bellatrix (21146 points ) September 28th, 2011

Crazy question I know but while I was on my holiday, driving around and seeing sheep and cows in the fields, it made me wonder if they have favourite cows or sheep to hang with? Do they connect with each other or just happen to randomly be near each other but not really have any preference? What do you think?

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20 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’ve heard that they do, actually, have preferences. I remember specifically seeing a show where they explained that sheep have sheep friends, and they recognize each others’ faces.

zensky's avatar

Farm animals are not stupid. Bovine and even sheep are herd animals, domesticated, and thus do not possess the instincts a wild, non-herd animal might – which in then might be interpreted to seem moreintelligent.

But cows can be tamed, trained and taught a few things. This brings me to believe that just as they can become attached to a human, they can also befriend others. They are each unique – no two are the same – which also helps this theory that they can easily distinguish one from another.

This is just a theory – but I did grow up (partly) on a farm and spent many years with farm animals. I shall now research this topic to see if it fits with my theory.

Hibernate's avatar

Maybe they do.

ucme's avatar

I know where you’re coming from, whenever I see a herd of cows & one is isolated, usually in the corner of the field, it gets me wondering. I mean, is this lonely cow ostracised by the others coz she’s a troublemaker. Or are the others just bullies, laughing at her massive arse?
I do get the feeling that horses despise donkeys, when I see them standing together I imagine the horse to be saying, “For fuck’s sake, get lost shorty!”

flutherother's avatar

I don’t think so. Young animals are obviously attached to their parents but you never see grown animals pair up consistently as friends. There is a herding instinct but that is different.

rooeytoo's avatar

Race horses often have a “pet” of their own who travels, sleeps and stays with them. It keeps them calm and happy. And yes, they definitely know if someone tries to switch them.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes. I strongly suspect that we underestimate the abilities of animals.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

They do. Out of a herd of 80 cows they’ll establish a pecking order and they will hang with the ones they prefer. You work with them a lot and you’ll be able to see the groups. I could recognize every one of our cows and pick them out of the group. It drove my mother nuts. :) I’m not sure what that says about me.

zensky's avatar

It says that you were a farmer. Most farmers know their herds, if not by name then by number. Some know every cow’s name and number.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@zensky Hey the income comes from the animals. You learn to know the animals. Each one had their own personality.

zensky's avatar

Much research has been done on the subject – especially in Holland – where cows live in luxury – sleeping on mattresses in heated barns in the winter. Cows produce more milk when they are happy – and happiness includes a little Mozart when they are being milked.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

I don’t think they care much… They’re too busy grazing. That being said, maybe their preference is to be next to the one’s that don’t eat as much as they do?

Coloma's avatar

Sure. They have buddies just like us and our dogs and cats.
My goose ‘Sonora’ is madly in love with one of the neighbors sheep, they spend hours standing by each other at the fence line.

This attachment formed about 2 years ago and the sheep is attached to her too.

If I leave my gate open at the end of my driveway she will follow the sheep up the road walking the fence line.

It’s really funny, the two of them will be hanging out while the other sheep and Marwyn do their own thing.

DrBill's avatar

They absolutely do, they also have pets. I had a horse that was best friends with another horse and had a goat as a pet. And the horse would follow me around and ignore other people. I had a pair of dogs that took care of each other, even sharing food, when one died the other died laying on his grave, and the vet said he was the healthiest dead dog he ever saw.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@zensky Now I want to be a cow. *But wait? Are they buttering up the steaks, or just being nice… Never trust a hungry human.

zensky's avatar

It’s time to watch Charlotte’s Web again with a a whole new perspective.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yes. I come from a farming family. I can tell you that animals make friends and enemies the same as we do. There is the cat that everyone (including the cows) shy away from, or the cat that everyone likes to have curl up with them.

Here in my own home, I have one “shy” dog. Most days, she’d like her brother to not exist. She makes this apparent in many ways. We just got a new pup…she is already going up to him and giving him kisses.

The pup seems to get along with everyone. He, however, has decided that the guinea pig is his best friend. He spends time “talking to her” (they stare at each other), kissing her…and a fe times we’ve caught them playing a little hide & seek game with one another. Cute!

BTW-Cows when milked by hand also tend to have a favorite “milker”. My gramps would holler at anyone that touched one of his “shy” girls…he said she wouldn’t let down all of her milk because she was “upset” by their hands.

Londongirl's avatar

My cat only stays with me or guests she likes, though she’s a friendly cat but she knows the vibes that people sending to her… ;)

Bellatrix's avatar

I am so pleased the consensus is that these animals do indeed make friends (and enemies) and have crushes. Won’t look at a field of cows again in the same way. Might have to go and read Animal Farm again!

And @ucme… very funny. Made me laugh. I wonder what the cow in the corner did to upset the rest?

And @Adirondackwannabe I agree with @zensky. It is great you could recognise all your animals.

Thank you everyone for your great responses so far. And @Zensky, what else did the Swedish research conclude?

augustlan's avatar

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