There are around 800 different breeds of cow in the world. The ones at Mudchute are Dexter Cattle which are small and stocky are a rare breed which is surprising because they produce a lot of milk and are apparently good to eat.
The males are called bulls and before they have their first calf the females are called heifers, afterwards they are called cows. They are pregnant for nine months just like humans are and make fantastic mothers.
They are very sociable animals indeed and they only ever chose to be alone if they are unwell or if a female cow is about to calve .They love to solve problems, like opening their food racks to eat up all the straw, or working out how to open gates to get out of their field.
Cows can see about 360 degrees around them, but they can’t see very well just in front of their face, so they have to turn their heads sideways when they want to take a good look at you. And they see in colour and have a most excellent sense of smell which can find an interesting scent up to 6 miles away.
Their worst habit is to use their twenty three centimetre long, bristly, wriggly, strong tongues to pick their noses with.
They spend about 10 hours a day lying down but can quite happily sleep standing up. So that they don’t get cold they have thick skin and hair covering them.
Mostly cows eat grass, but it is best to give them extra nutrients and grains to keep them healthy. They never eat meat and are always vegetarian.
They have about 32 teeth but no top front ones. When they eat grass they grab it with their tongue and cut it against their lower teeth before chewing it up and swallowing it. They chew about 40-50 times a minute for 8 hours a day. Like goats, sheep deer, giraffes and lots of other animals, they are ruminants. This means that they need four stomachs to digest the grass thoroughly and get the goodness from it that they need.
One cow can eat about 40 pounds and drink up a whole bathtub full of water in a day. Because they eat such a lot of grass they munch it up more quickly than it can grow. So sometimes the cattle go away on eating holidays to other farms to graze their fields and give time for fresh new grass to grow on the Mudchute again.