New wellness center lets guests cuddle with cows

Cow cuddling is getting ever more popular, but what's the science behind using animals for relaxation?

New wellness center lets guests cuddle with cows
Credit: cottonbro from Pexels
  • An Indian non-profit hopes to help people relax by giving them cuddle sessions with cows.
  • This is not the first such center where you can chill out with cattle.
  • Like other emotional support animals, the proven health benefits are limited.

Comfort and emotional support animals are increasingly popular all over the world. While most people turn to their dog or cat for comfort, some more outlandish choices have also been made, including peacocks, monkeys, and snakes. While the merits of using an animal for emotional support are debated, some people claim to gain a great deal of comfort from their animal and turn to them for relaxation and support that they cannot find elsewhere.

Taking advantage of the trend, a non-profit in India is offering people the chance to cuddle with cattle at a new therapy center dedicated to improving human health.

Who needs a therapy dog when you can hug a cow?

Located outside of the Indian city of Gurugram, the new Cow Cuddling Centre will be run by a non-profit headed by the former Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, SP Gupta.

Pitched as a way to escape the stresses of modern life and "forget all your problems," the founders of the establishment have high hopes for it, suggesting in a press statement that spending time with the cows can cure "respiratory diseases, blood pressure, spinal pain, heart problem, depression but also sadness, anxiety and all kinds of tensions."

While you might be thinking that cow cuddling only exists in India because of the cultural importance placed on the animal there, the Dutch beat them to it. Cow cuddling farms exist in the United States as well.

Is there any science behind the idea of cuddling with a cow over a more traditional, travel-sized pet?

Like claims about emotional support animals of any kind, there is a limited amount of data on this.

What studies do exist on emotional support animals are small, limited, and should be considered to be the beginnings of more extensive studies which will settle the question of how much help these animals can provide. This is different from work on well-trained service animals, which are proven to be very helpful when doing the tasks they are specially trained for.

Regarding cows, the BBC suggests that chilling with cows can cause relaxation by boosting oxytocin levels in humans, though they do not cite a specific study supporting that stance. One often-referenced study from several years back suggests the cows might like and get relaxation out of cuddling too.

However, Dr. Michael Ungar suggests in this Psychology Today article that cow cuddling might be comparable to equine therapy, which, while also lacking in rigorous scientific support, does seem to provide some people certain benefits.

The news magazine India Today featured a brief interview with professor Ritu Dangwal, who also suggests that cow cuddling might have some benefits:

"As a psychologist and someone who herself experienced it, being with cows is extremely therapeutic. We are stuck in a rat race and our anxiety is at an all-time high. Being with an emotive animal, one that has no judgement and loves unconditionally, does wonders."

What relaxes some people might be somewhat surprising to others, or difficult to generalize in a scientific study. While you might not get prescribed a day in the pasture anytime soon, cow cuddling is an increasingly popular way to relax that gets people back into nature and interacting with animals in a way that many of us rarely get the chance to. While the science isn't quite all there, some people might find it worth the time.

Just be sure to wear closed-toe shoes if you go.

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