Spend enough time around cows and you’ll run into the occasional friendly individuals who let you pet, rub, scratch etc. And if you give them the chance, those friendly cows may even try to lick you. If you haven’t felt a cow’s tongue, it’s pretty rough, and can be uncomfortable having a 1200+ lb animal rough up your skin with a scratchy tongue! So why do they do it? Mainly, cows are interested in salt, which is a mineral that’s limited in supply in most pastures, and they’re always looking for some. When we sweat, our bodies excrete salt, which is still present on the skin after the perspiration evaporates. So cows often sense that salt and want to get a taste of it, which is why a friendly cow may try to lick your hand or arm. That’s the most common, but not the only reason cows lick. Here’s an overview:
- Grooming. Cows lick each other as a form of grooming. This helps to remove dirt, parasites, and loose hair. When cows lick humans, they may be trying to groom us in the same way.
- Affection. Cows also lick each other as a way to show affection. Licking is a way for cows to bond with each other and to show that they trust each other. When cows lick humans, they may be trying to show us affection as well.
- Curiosity. Cows are curious animals, and they may lick humans simply to explore their surroundings and learn more about us.
- Taste. Cows may also lick humans because they are interested in the taste of our skin. Our skin is salty, and cows are attracted to salt.