Do Cows Bite? 3 Facts with Teeth Function

Can cows bite? A question we have been asking since we were kids upon visiting farms. Most people and kids fear going near the cows because of their giant size and strength.

People are scared that the cow would bite or cause bodily harm. Cows approach people when they are curious or want to be petted. 

The cow’s reputation may tell you otherwise but they are gentle giants. They are not particularly dangerous but they are capable of causing serious injury to people.

Each year, several deaths occur after being attacked by livestock. Fortunately, none of these reported incidents involved cows biting humans. 

Do cows ever bite? The answer is the same as expected, no they cannot even if they have wanted to.

Cows can express their anger and be aggressive in many ways but biting is not one of them. In this post, you will also learn why cows can not bite.

Can Cows Bite?

No, Cows can not bite as they do not have upper teeth. The worst they can do is squish you with their gums, so, there is no need to worry about cow biting.

As they do not bite even if they want to because it is just not possible. Cows have different jaws than humans, it works differently and they are not adept at vertical biting. 

Cows are herbivores, a fancy term for animals eating a plant-based diet, so, their mouths are designed to eat grass and forage.

They only have a single row of front teeth which is extremely unlikely to be used to bite people as a defense mechanism or for whatever reason.

Cows are aware that biting is not their forte, so, they do not even try it in the first place. 

Imagine for a second, cows biting someone with their nose because of the lack of anatomy.

Cows are often seen nibbling orbiting at one another, it is because they have to groom each other.

If the cow nibbles the owner, it may mean that it has decided to groom him as well. 

Can Calves Bite?

It is clear that cows can not bite, you must be wondering, what about calves? Calves are an exception to the rule, they use their mouths in a similar fashion as puppies to try to explore and get a better understanding of the environment. They can chew the farmer’s arm when he is near. 

Is A Cow Bite Dangerous?

Cows would be less likely to go for the biting option, even if they do, rest easy as the bite is not dangerous or malicious.

Since cows only have a single row of front teeth at the bottom and the dental pad at the top, so, even if they do attempt to bite you, it would not do much harm. 

Upper incisors are replaced by soft dental pads, so, even if they bite, you would not end up with a bloody hand, in most cases.

Cows have weak jaw muscles, so, they can not exert strong vertical force with their jaws when biting. 

Cows chew their food with large, flat back teeth and their jaw moves in a circular motion to break down food.

Being herbivores, cows do not need strong jaw muscles. Mostly, carnivores have strong jaws to rip and tear flesh. 

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cow-bite

How Often Do Cows Bite?

Cows would not try to hurt you, especially with a bite. They do not opt for the bite and resort to other ways of violence.

It is extremely rare that cows would bite as most of the time they kick others to show their anger.

Even though cows do not choose to bite you, it is important to note that if you put your fingers, hand, or other body parts in the cow’s mouth, they will not shy away from biting and you may end up getting hurt. 

Reasons Why Cows Do Not Bite

Biting can not be an effective defense strategy for cows as they lack the required anatomy.

They try to harm predators and people in other ways as a defense mechanism. Cows do not bite for the most obvious reason that they can not.

There could be several other reasons as to why cows don’t bite.

Lacking Upper Incisors

Cows lack upper incisors and have a soft rubbery patch of skin instead. A Cow has a dental pad on the top where most animals have an upper set of teeth.

Cows crush up forage with a dental pad. However, they do have top and bottom molars but they are not used during the initial biting action while eating.

They use dental pads along with their tongues to hold grass and forage, however, it does not help much in biting food.

Cows can not bite someone or something as whatever they bite would be pushed to the dental pad. 

Not Adept at Vertical Biting

The cow’s jaw is designed to eat grasses and other plant-based food. They chew food differently than humans and their jaw moves laterally instead of vertically.

Cows grind the grass to the pulp with their back teeth to absorb sufficient nutrients. Jaws move in a circular motion, side to side, for grinding movements.

Cows can not bite up and down strongly as their jaw is not as strong as carnivore’s muscles.

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How Do Cows Show Aggression?

Cows are not generally aggressive but some actions can instigate cows. Cows become defensive when protecting the calves.

Though they do not bite, they use some other ways to show aggressiveness. Cows use their weight and their horns to intimidate and hurt others. Sometimes cow-tipping causes them to behave like this.

They deliver a fatal kick using their hind legs to harm predators. 

Cow’s mouth is designed for grinding, not biting. They lack upper teeth and their jaws move differently, so, they can not bite as some other animals.

Their teeth are sharp at first but quickly wear down with time. Moreover, cows are not aggressive animals and they usually do not pick up fights. They defend themselves using their legs and horns. 

  • Hi, I am Talon Juper, a passionate farmer, and Livestock Expert. I have done my graduation in Agriculture and Animal breeding. Relevant to Farm Desire as a research writer and data recorder.

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