Can Cows Survive in the Wild?

Cows Survive in the Wild

Cows can survive in the wild without experiencing any negative effects on health and reproduction. As a matter of fact, it has been established that centuries of years ago cows lived in the wild. Although they have since evolved, they still have the ability to survive without human intervention. They can give birth on their own and have the ability to forage and look for a water source unassisted; this basically means that cows can survive in the wild. In terms of shelter, they often get it from trees and are known to keep together during the cold season. A common concern among ranchers is attack of the herd by predators. Cows are however protective and so tend to protect their young from possible threat. There are numerous cases recorded whereby they have been lost and found to be in good health weeks later which is also an indication that cows can survive in the wild.

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The Natural Life of Cows

In order to understand how and if cows can survive in the wild, it is necessary to have some knowledge on their natural life. Cows are said to be members of the Bovidae family along with antelopes  and buffalos. The modern domesticated cattle descended from auroch which were originally used for meat,milk, hide as well as labour. During this period, they were not provided with feed suppliments, additives, shelter or any other form of special treatment. They basically survived on available natural resources.  With selective breeding that has occurred over the years, their physical appearance is said to have changed dramatically and so they developed to become what they are today. To be precise, they have changed to an extent that they are now regarded as separate species. Despite of this dramatic change in their physical appearance, till date cows can survive in the wild. In many countries especially in the African subsistence farming community, cows are allowed the opportunity to survive on their own. Studies reveal that semi-wild cattle still exist in several countries. Note that these are not wild cows.


In the wild, cows tend to form small social groups whereby they survive together. This behaviour is similar to other wild animals. According to research studies, the social structure within their community is based on matriarchal families. Research also stresses that when the social structure within the herd has been established, it remains stable for many years such that any disruption by a new member can be quite confusing. As clearly articulated, cows can survive in the wild by creating social groups whereby they keep together and protect themselves from predators.

Most animals have the ability to see in the dark and have a superior sense of smell which allows them to survive in varied environments. The same applies to most domestic animals. As such, cows can survive in the wild. They have night vision that enables them to identify objects including predators during the night time. Although they have poor depth perception and are often afraid to enter dark or shadowy places, they have a good sense of hearing and smell. This offers them the ability to explore new objects and environments which is all part of their survival mechanism.

The Birthing Process

Among the popular concerns on whether cows can survive in the wild is the birthing process. Some modern farming practises provide aid to livestock during birth even when it is not needed. This has created some controversy within the agricultural community because some ranchers are worried that such practises would result in cows losing the ability to give birth on their own. This is a crucial aspect in ensuring the survival of cattle. Experts point out that cows can survive in the wild and give birth without any complications. The birth process is particularly a private time for cows and they tend to isolate themselves until the process is complete. Aid is only necessary when complications are experienced which is unusual in healthy livestock.

Cows can survive in the wild as they are able to carry out most of the necessary functions by themselves. Studies conducted on the subject matter point out that they are able to wean off their young ones on their own. This is often done when they are 9 months old but will remain with the mother for the rest of their lives. Males are naturally weaned at 12 months after which they leave the herd to join what is known as a bachelor herd. In terms of life expectancy, it is estimated that cows can survive in the wild for up to 20 years of age.

Do Cows Still Live In The Wild?

Although cows can survive in the wild, research indicates that wild cows have become extinct. Centuries ago before human intervention, cows were regarded as wild animals living and surviving in the wild. It is said that all cows in the world descended from a single species of wild cows which are termed the urus or aurochs. With human intervention, selective breeding was practised which dramatically changed the physical appearance as well as the behaviour of cows to domestic animals they are today. According to research studies, wild cows continued to exist in Europe until the 1600s. The last wild cow is thought to have died in Poland around 1927 and the cause of death is still unknown. Since then, some institutions have sought to produce replicas of the wild cow without success. The outcome is said to be nothing like the wild cow in both appearance and temperament.

How Long Do Cows Live In The Wild?

Since it has been proven that cows can survive in the wild, it is only natural to consider exactly how long they can live without human intervention. The exact answer is unknown, however, studies have revealed that cows can live for up to 20 years. In commercial farming systems, they are not allowed the opportunity to reach maximum age. They are often culled at only 6 years of age and sometimes even at 4 years. Note that this does not mean that in the wild cows can survive up to 20 years. There is always risk of attack by predators and they may not have access to well-balanced dietary systems necessary to achieve a higher life expectancy.