From the Farm: Cows say hooray for human hands

  • For Scottish Highlanders, horns are useful, but nothing is better than a brush in the hands of an energetic human. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Published: 6/24/2019 11:54:18 AM

Do you think cows like to be hugged? Mine do! My shaggy Scottish Highlanders were literally bred for it. That is to say, on Miles Smith Farm any people-haters don’t remain in the gene pool. At worst our cattle don’t mind people; at best they are big teddy bears. Even our bulls are lovers, not fighters.

But it’s not just careful breeding that makes my cattle so fond of people. Imagine that you have a big, thousand-pound body and no hands to scratch where it itches! Rubbing against a tree or a fence post can help. The Highlanders’ 2-foot long horns look like weapons, but they are excellent for scratching itches. For example, Finn the steer was napping in the field, and his buddy, Soren, rubbed his chin on the point of Finn’s horn.

Horns are useful, but nothing is better than a brush in the hands of an energetic human.

Curious Bleu, a favorite Highlander steer of mine, will drop his head and blissfully close his eyes when I brush his matted hair. He will quietly stand while I rub his tail dock (the base of the tail – a place he could never reach) or groom his tail.

Cattle, like other quadrupeds, aren’t built to dispense hugs like humans, but they can approximate the gesture. Topper will walk up to me in the pasture and rest his head on my shoulder, inviting me to rub his neck – another hard-to-reach spot. Most cattle will do the same.

A human hug, both arms slung around a cow’s neck, may not be the cow’s first choice, but it is satisfying for humans. My favorite is when the cow lies down, and I rest my head on her belly. Most will lie for hours while their human, me, dozes off.

That might be a bit much for the novice. But whatever “hugging” technique you choose, an amiable cow will appreciate the attention, and you can come to our farm to experiment. On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can visit us and cuddle a steer, hug a goat, brush a cow, or pet a donkey.

The event is to benefit Elspeth’s Place – a learning barn that we plan to build here on the farm to expand the nonprofit facet of Miles Smith Farm. It will be a place where people of all ages can come to learn more about livestock and farming. It is named for Elspeth, a beloved heifer who died accidentally in April.

Join us for fun, food, and cow-hugging at Miles Smith Farm. Admission is $6 for adults, children under 12 are free, and donations will be accepted. Our address is 56 Whitehouse Road, Loudon.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grassfed beef. She can be reached at


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