Why Do Cows Kick?

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, July 3, 1912:  Did the same things today as I usually do on other days. Got so mad at a cow who took a notion to run over the whole creation.

Advertisement in June 30, 1911 Issue of Farm Implement Magazine

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Sounds like Grandma again was having problems with a cow escaping from the pasture. Grandma also occasionally had  to deal with other cow behavior problems. For example, on March 31, 1911 she wrote:

I got kicked today, and it was such a violent one that it caused me to land on my back. It was by a modest cow, who happened to kick me and the bucket at the same time. I guess I was as much surprised as she was.

Here’s an abridged version of what a 1908 book called The Farm Dairy by H.B. Gurler had to say about cows that kick:

Find the Cause of a Cow’s Kicking.—When a cow kicks, the first thing the milker should do is look for the cause. Do not fly into a rage and scold the cow, but remember that the cow must have had cause for the kicking. You may think the cause was not sufficient, especially if she hit you where it hurt, as she probably did for cows have a facility for doing that.

When a cow kicks she is either frightened or hurt, and if she is frightened and kicked you it is strong circumstantial evidence that you have at some time hurt her and she is afraid that you are going to hurt her again, and she feels that her safety depends on her ability to defend herself.

Sometimes cows are hurt. For example, the cause for one cow that kicked was a pond of water in the pasture in which the cow stood fighting flies, getting her teats wet, and causing them to chap, but not so deeply that the milker discovered it until the healing process had commenced. A few applications of linseed oil on the teats remedied the trouble.

There is always a cause for a cow’s kicking and it is not to our credit not to be able to find it.

8 Responses

  1. I just had to look up “Bag Balm” and learned that it was first made in 1899: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bag_Balm. Perhaps this would have helped her!

  2. It goes to show that cows are not mindless beasts, but that they have feelings and memories. It makes me think that each cow has a personality that might or might not respond well to the way a certain farmer treats it. Grandma’s cow seems to have a mischievous streak, too! :)

  3. Poor granma. If it’s not Rufus, it’s the cows. We used to use udder balm on our goats and also tie their hind leg when we milked them so they couldn’t kick over the milk. There was one that would do it just for “fun”. She was a mean one.

  4. This makes me think of a type of kick that my horses can deliver. Horse folks sometimes say “she cow kicked me,” or something like that. It’s a one time, split second to the side and back kick with a hind leg and IT HURTS. ouch…

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