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Cows prefer to co-moo-nicate in person, research suggests

October 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Cows are more relaxed when spoken to directly by a live human rather than when listening to a recorded voice via a loudspeaker, suggesting they prefer in-person communication, according to new research from Austria.

Cows are more relaxed after being spoken to directly by a live human rather than when listening to a recorded voice via a loudspeaker, researchers found.

"Our study suggests that live talking is more relaxing for our animals than a recording of a human voice," said Annika Lange, a doctoral student at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and author of the study, in a press statement.

Previous research has shown that cows are quite sophisticated "co-moo-nicators" -- both among themselves and with humans.

Scientists have discovered that cows make distinctive sounds when excited, lonely or looking forward to a meal, and they direct low-frequency calls toward their calves.

This latest study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that cows prefer to listen to humans in person.

Working with a herd of 28 heifers, the researchers compared stroking the animals while playing a recording of an experimenter's voice talking soothingly, or stroking them while speaking to the animals directly -- also gently.

"When relaxed and enjoying the interaction, the animals will often stretch out their necks as they do when they groom each other," said Lange.

The cows' behavior and physiological signs suggested that the animals had a positive reaction to both the recorded and in-person talking.

But their heart rates were lower after the animals were spoken to directly -- suggesting that the animals had a more positive experience and were relaxed for longer after live talking.

Lange said the findings could help improve relationships between cattle and humans -- an important aspect of animal welfare.

She added that other studies have showed that cows that are less fearful of humans also produce more milk.

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