You can tell how relaxed a cow is simply by looking into its eyes, according to a new research paper by international welfare charity World Animal Protection.
Previous studies found that cows show an increase in eye white when they are scared or frustrated. But scientists Helen Proctor and Gemma Carder, who worked on the study, found the opposite to be the case when cows are relaxed and calm.
Their results show the cow’s eye white reduced when they were stroked, compared with before and afterwards, suggesting visible eye whites indicate how relaxed a cow is feeling.
Helen, World Animal Protection’s sentience manager, said “Many people often forget that animals have an interest in feeling good, and not only being free from pain or fear. Developing measures of positive emotions in animals is really important, as it enables us to understand how they are feeling and helps us to know which experiences and environments make them feel good.”
These results, along with previous papers on ear postures and nasal temperatures as measures of positive emotions, prove that not only do cow’s show visible signs of pleasure at being stroked by someone they know, but that it is possible to measure positive emotions in them.
The study was carried out at Bolton’s Park Farm, part of the Royal Veterinary College in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.