How about an hour of cow cuddling for your next therapy session? A wellness retreat in rural New York is pioneering a new type of therapy: cow cuddling and horse hugging. Could a bovine embrace boost your mood and benefit your health?
Hugs for Your Health
Hugging humans has already been proven effective at combatting stress. A recently released study by PLoS One confirms that receiving a hug helps to alleviate a negative mood when you’re having a bad day. This is because touch has the power to shut off the part of the brain that reacts to stress. Fewer stress hormones are released, and therefore your cardiovascular system experiences less stress. Hug therapy has been used to treat anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
While cows can’t hug back, they can offer a big, furry dose of touch—not to mention those adorable eyes. Like dogs, cows have a higher resting body temperature than people do, which makes them feel cozy warm. Cows also have a slower heartbeat than humans because of their size, which makes them seem more relaxed. And therefore—they should be cuddled!
Cow Cuddling Therapy
Mountain Horse Farm in Naples, New York, is offering guests a Cow Cuddling experience that lets them pet, brush, and snuggle up to cows as well as miniature horses. If the cows feel like lying down, you can cuddle right up to them for a spooning session. It costs $75 per 60 minutes for two people and is available from May 31 through October 31. You’ll need to sign a waiver.
The farm is a luxurious, health-focused retreat that also offers sessions with full-size horses for $300 per 90 minutes. There are also all-inclusive packages, massages, and dog-training workshops.
What Happened When I Hugged a Heifer
I decided to put the cow cuddling theory to the test myself. I’m a bonafide animal lover who has worked on farms and at vet clinics. I already take a “Cuddle Break” every single afternoon to snuggle with my two wiener dogs, so it was an easy stretch to cows.
Since I live in Texas, I don’t have to pay a dime to cuddle a cow. I just headed to the nearest field where there was a herd hanging out, a good five-minute drive from my home in suburban Fort Worth. It was a sunny day and luckily the cattle were standing around near the fence. These weren’t the famous Texas Longhorns—hugging them would be just plain silly. There weren’t any bulls around either. I hopped the barbed wire and slowly approached the herd, risking my life to write this article (trespassing on private property in Texas is a great way to get shot).
Cuddling ‘Til the Cows Come Home
I couldn't wait to start cuddling away. One big heifer wasn’t having it, but a smaller brown cow seemed oblivious enough to let me approach, staring into space with glassy eyes. I slowly started petting her neck as she chewed the eternal cud, occasionally flicking her tongue upwards into a shiny, snot-covered nostril. I moved in for a real hug. Flies buzzed all around us as a thin stream of slobber dripped off her mouth to the ground. I'm pretty sure that I enjoyed it more than she did.
Was it relaxing? Oh yes. And it was ridiculous, slightly dangerous, kind of gross, and overall—a fantastic way to break up an afternoon of work. But truth be told, I prefer cuddling my dogs to cows. They’ve got a lot more personality, and they lie down on command to submit to my snuggling. They don’t drool on me (that much) and they don’t smell like shit (well maybe just a little bit).
A Remedy for No-Animal Loneliness
I’m sure that the cows at Mountain View Farm have better hygiene than the future burgers wandering around in a random field that I hugged. While paying to cuddle cows is a laughable idea in Texas (people literally laughed at me), I would definitely consider it if I lived in New York City and had no other contact with animals. In fact, I paid to go to a petting zoo just last month.
According to some theories, “No-Animal Loneliness” is one of the seven types of loneliness. Animal lovers like me have a deep need to connect with animals. Being kept apart from animal energy feels wrong, like something’s missing in your life.
So go ahead: cuddle a cow, hug a horse, or snuggle a Siamese cat. Soak in that animal energy—just don’t squeeze a snake and you’ll be okay.
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