What Eats A Cow? 7 Common Cow Predators

The cow is a giant animal which makes it hard to believe that it can be easily hunted. It is true to some extent, however, if you look at the data, the results are quite surprising. As per the reports of the Department of Agriculture, about 0.23% of the American Cattle stock was lost to carnivores and dogs.

Even the cattle living on farms and ranches are killed by the native predators and the farmers have to spend a lot of money on the prevention of such attacks by buying guard animals, setting up electric fences, and more.

According to Nature’s recent study, Cow predators are different depending on the region, for instance, wolves and grizzly bears attack cattle in North America whereas wolves and tigers hunt cows frequently in Asia. Lions and leopards eat cows in Africa and a wild dog called Dingo hunts cows in Australia.

Cow Predators

The cow is a prey animal and dangerous predators are always looking for a way to hurt them. Because of their big size, it is hard to attack them but they are naive animals who know fewer tricks to save themselves.

However, most predators attack already injured or sick cows who can not stand a chance against the lethal attacks. The biggest cow predators are;

  • Dogs
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Grizzly Bears
  • Cougars
  • Bobcats
  • Tigers

Dogs

dog

Though dogs appear harmless, they can be the cow’s biggest predators sometimes. Wild Dogs can bite, injure, and even kill cows.

A single dog may not hunt one cow down but a pack can surely do. No matter which breeds, size, or age group dogs belong to they do not let go any moment where they can attack and bring the animal down.

The pack usually circles the cow prey and starts attacking by biting its face. Dogs also try to make the prey fall to the ground to finish it off easily. Many laws allow farmers and landowners to kill dogs who are caught in the act of hurting livestock.

Wild Dogs attacking cattle and other livestock is a growing problem and experts are looking for a way to bring it under control. Not many people know that but dogs have a hunting instinct and they get triggered by the scent and sight of prey.

Coyotes

coyotes

You may have never heard Coyotes killing healthy adult cows and yearlings because they rarely hurt adult cows over two months old. It is not easy for a coyote to tackle and attack an animal that big in size.

Coyotes kill calves, they are easy prey, not mobile, defenseless, and extremely easy to kill. Coyotes generally target vulnerable newborns under one week old.

The vulnerability of calves in comparison to the full-grown cattle is extreme, so, Coyotes come season after season to feast on days old defenseless calves.

With herd management strategies, improving the quality of the fences, and the use of technology, it is possible to save newborns from deadly attacks.

Wolves

wolves

Wolves are one of the biggest predators of cattle and livestock, in general. USDA found upon investigation that wolves have killed about 3879 cattle in 2015. Wolves are smart predators, they do not attack cows moving in the herds but often a single cow strayed from the path or separated from the herd.

Wolves often go for the easy target, calves, they are easy to kill and feast on. Adult cattle put up a fight and can not be easily killed.

When attacking full-grown cattle, a pack of wolves is sufficient for the job. They circle the prey and attack it at once.

Wolves usually attack an injured cow that can not defend itself. Livestock farmers are not happy with the presence of wolves and cattle in the same territory as it leads to livestock losses and loss of hundreds and thousands of dollars.

In 2020, wolves killed 102 cattle and sheep in Idaho which led to the passing of the bill that allows people to kill the majority of the state’s wolves.

However, killing a large number of wolves will make the matter worse, there should be an incentive coexistence strategy to not harm any of the animal’s species.

Grizzly Bears

bear

Grizzly Bears killing cattle is no new news, you may hear about the bear attacking and wounding livestock from time to time through different news portals.

This predator is known for killing domesticated livestock that is helpless against the frightening Grizzly Bear.

Bear is smart enough to stay out of the sight of humans and does not attack cattle in their presence. Once the livestock is grazing on the field or out and about, they pick up cattle or calves here and there and feast on them.

The largest proportion of predation on cattle happens in late July or August, the period of increased appetite when they are preparing for winter hibernation.

Farmers will experience losses if the cows are grazing in the same region as Grizzly Bear, however, range riders, or livestock protection dogs can help with the predation control.

Grizzly Bears do not cause chaos or hunt in areas with an increased level of human activity, roads, human presence, and other factors keep them at bay.

Cougars

cougar

Many cattle ranchers and farmers have witnessed lethal attacks from the wild Cougar. They rarely hunt large cattle unless they are sick or severely injured. Cougar, Puma Concolor, or Mountain Lion kill cattle and sheep and are responsible for around 20% of the total predation losses in the Western States yearly.

A farmer having cattle ranches in far-off areas where such predators are at large has to pay heavy losses in terms of cattle loss and setting up different measures for predation control. Cougars have killed a fair share of cattle and still continue to do so whenever they get the chance.

Cougars kill cows or calves and take the prey to a specific area to feast on it undisturbed. Once they have eaten to their heart’s content, they cover the prey with grass and leaves so that other carnivores can not find it. Keep guard animals, install electrifying fences to lower the conflict between cattle and cougars.

Bobcats

Bobcats are not as large in size as some other predators on the list. Despite their size, they have caused enough chaos in the cattle world. They do not hunt large, full-grown cows as they can not take them down easily.

Bobcats usually eat squirrels, rabbits, and seldomly hunt deer. They like to hunt calves who are easily manageable by them. Bobcats kill the calves when humans or their cow mothers are not around. They never hunt in the presence of humans only when they find the calves alone in the ranch.

Tigers

Tigers are strong predators who are pretty good at hunting. The Tiger is aware of all the tips and tricks on how to attack big animals. Bengal Tigers kill gaurs and even groups of cows incurring hundreds of dollars of losses to farmers, especially in Asia.

For large animals like cattle, Tigers usually aim for the throat. They use their strong forelimbs to bring the prey to the ground. The Tiger keeps holding on to the neck tightly till the cow dies. Tigers do not have to hunt in packs, they can outsmart the prey with clever hunting techniques.

When cows are grazing in a herd, a tiger may not likely disturb them, however, it may attack a single cow grazing alone or separated from the fellow herd members. A single cow is more vulnerable and can be easily killed.

Do Cow Predators Have Impacted the Population of Cows?

Cattle have been around for thousands of years, so does the predators. The cattle population continues to grow despite attacks from predators or deaths from weather or poor living conditions. No livestock species are on the verge of extinction because of the deadly predator attacks.

Humans And Cattle

This post can not complete without mentioning the human and cattle bond. Like predators, humans too have been feasting on beef for ages now. According to EFSA Journal, Numerous cows are slaughtered daily to meet the beef consumption of the market. More than the predators, humans have slaughtered cows for their delicious meat.

Putting it all together, we hope you understand now that animals eat cows in the food chain. Cattle is a prey species and vulnerable to attacks by different predators. However, it is important to mention here that the aforementioned predators are not the only killers but some respiratory diseases can be fatal as well.

  • Araceli Diamond is a Livestock expert and animal breeder. She has her own local farms for breeding and livestock nourishment. She is a research writer and answers the questions of readers.

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