What Are the Physical Characteristics of a Cow?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 25, 2020 5:41:26 PM ET

Cows have stocky, rectangular bodies with four legs. They are black, white or brown and have heads that are small in proportion to their bodies. Beef cattle have a muscular build, while dairy cattle have a rectangular shape. Zebu cattle, also called humped cattle, have humps on their shoulders.

Cows typically weigh from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds although some breeds weigh slightly more or less. The color of cows also varies depending on the breed. Holstein cows have the well-known black-and-white ?cow print? pattern, Dutch belted cows are black with a belt-like band of white around their bellies, and the coats of Devon cows are deep reddish-brown.

Because cows are prey species, their eyes are set on the sides of their heads, which gives them excellent peripheral vision. Their hearing is sensitive to high-pitched noises although dairy breeds are more perceptive to shrill sounds than beef breeds.

When cows eat grass, they twist their tongues around it to hold it in place while cutting it with their bottom teeth. Cows? stomachs are divided into four chambers, and food is regurgitated as cud and chewed again before passing to each chamber. The digestive process takes 70 to 100 hours to complete.