Throw away the gym membership, forget yoga because when it comes to stress busting, there is a new trend in town – and it’s udderly relaxing.
Cow hugging is taking the Netherlands by storm and so mooooved are people by the effects of the new wellness therapy, that there’s a stampede to introduce it to other parts of the world including the US.
Gerard and Els began their cow hugging business 14 years ago at their farm, Kastanje Hoeve, in Holland and judging by the number of satisfied customers, these bovine therapists are worth their considerable weight in gold.
Studies show that a good hug can have significant health benefits, stimulating touch receptors under the skin which in turn lower our anxiety hormones and reduce stress levels.
The cows slightly warmer bodies and lower heart rates makes resting against them a comforting experience, according to Els. A bit like hugging a giant hot water bottle.
Just a quick warning – if you’re in need of a hug after a stressful day at the office – don’t be tempted to stop off at your nearest field of cows on the way home from work. Not all cows are suited to the task of snuggling, and you might find yourself being chased by them instead.
‘We have special hugging cows. It’s not a trick we teach them, it’s something in their character. A good hugging cow is normally a little bit older and very patient and you can tell that she likes it,’ says Els.
‘From the beginning, from being a calf, you can see if the character is going to be suitable. We have one who gets very jealous if she isn’t getting cuddled when others near her are’.
Of course, that’s not to say cows, like humans don’t have their grumpy days. Maybe it’s a headache, maybe they just aren’t in the mood, but contact with them should never be forced.
Els explains: ‘When a hugging cow is lying down and people are snuggling her she likes it, she finds it relaxing. Some animals even close their eyes and you can tell that they are having a good experience’.
They say women can be fickle and down on the farm it seems that is also true. Toying with an animals affections might make you feel good but sometimes it won’t be reciprocated.
‘When it’s had enough of being hugged it will just get up and walk away,’ laughs Els, while husband Gerard admits: ‘You never know, every time it is a surprise how they will react. They keep you guessing’.
Cow cuddling in the Netherlands is part of a larger movement to connect people with country life. To get outside and have fun.
One city dweller admits: ‘ I love being in the countryside, the cows are very patient and sweet. One was expecting a calf in eight weeks and it was wonderful to feel it kicking as I put my hand gently against her stomach’.
Visitors come back time and again to milk the experience, so instead of the therapists couch, why not head down to a farm near you.
Fight back against the stresses and strains of modern life with a dairy cow