When they are not grazing, being milked, or performing other farm-related duties, a herd of cows can commonly be seen resting in fields. This often paints a stereotype that cows are inherently lazy creatures, but rest is vital for their health and can even affect milk production. And not all resting cows are simply taking the weight off their hooves, of course.
Cows sleep intermittently throughout the day in their stalls or in the field, most commonly in a lying-down position for better rest. Cows do not sleep as much as humans, but they still require daily periods of deep or ‘REM’ (rapid-eye-movement) sleep to maintain immune function, energy, and overall health.
For this reason, dairy farmers and cattle ranchers need to properly accommodate their cows’ sleeping needs by providing good quality bedding material, but also ensuring they have spacious enough stalls to stretch and comfortably lower themselves into a sleeping position. The following brief guide will answer some other common queries relating to cow’s sleep.
How Much Do Cows Sleep Daily?
Adult cows generally sleep around 4 hours each day with around 45 minutes of this accounting for deep REM sleep, according to multiple behavioral studies. It has also been found that cows can spend several hours a day in a ‘drowse’ state somewhere between rest and sleep.
Newborn calves sleep for around 10 hours per day and require less as they grow older.
What Position Do Cows Sleep in?
As well as standing, cows typically sleep lying on their chest to ensure their digestion is not hindered. During deep REM sleep, their heads may rest back on their body or on the ground, whilst in drowsy, semi-awake states, the neck and head may remain upright.
In order to get into a comfortable sleeping position, cows need to lunge their bodies forward and bob their heads as seen here, so they must have room in their stall to do so without risking injury due to cramped chains or stall bars.
Do Cows Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
Yes, when cows are not lying down for deep sleep, they can spend up to 8 hours a day in a drowsy, semi-awake rest, often doing so while standing upright in their stalls or in the field, and so keep their eyes open. This is an evolutionary advantage allowing cows to rest while keeping an eye out for potential dangers.
When Do Cows Sleep?
Cows are ‘polyphasic’ sleepers, meaning their sleep is split into several segments throughout the day, though they have been observed doing most of their sleeping during the night. Cows take multiple short naps throughout a 24 hour period, which can be between 5 and 30 minutes at a time.
Do Cows Sleep in the Rain?
Cows can and do sleep in the rain as they are pretty tolerant of it and will often seek nearby shelter themselves if the rain becomes too intense. Cattle generally won’t need shelter from rain, but you should provide an extra shelter in the field in case of strong winds or thunderstorms.
Do Cows Sleep in Barns?
Yes, most of the time, cows will sleep in a barn as this provides shelter from the elements, particularly during winter. Cows will generally have a better quality of sleep on comfortable barn bedding material than on uneven ground on land.
What Causes a Cow to Not Get up?
If cows have remained on the ground for a long period and cannot get up, this is usually down to a trauma caused by pain or infection. Inflammation and ulcers in their hooves may cause a cow too much pain to put their weight on.
Another cause of a cow not getting up can be due to mastitis in female cows. Mastitis is a painful condition that causes inflammation of the cow’s mammary glands caused by bacteria entering and infecting the teat.
Thankfully, major complications from mastitis or hoof issues can be prevented with early detection, regular milk monitoring, and proper hoof care.
Where Do Wild Cows Sleep at Night?
In the absence of a man-made shelter, wild cows will often sleep together in their herd for warmth or seek shelter under nearby trees in extreme weather.
What Animal Can’t Sleep Lying Down?
Elephants are the least likely to sleep lying down for long periods and are commonly observed sleeping standing up or leaning against nearby trees instead. While they can sleep lying down like cows, they cannot do so for periods longer than around 30 minutes as this can risk their body weight crushing their internal organs.
Because of an elephant’s weight and size, it is also not practical for them to sleep lying down because the process of getting up is so slow that escaping from predators is even more cumbersome.