Cow’s Tongue-Amazing Abilities!

We are pleased to re-blog this great post from Kids, Cows, and Grass in its entirety, with Debbie’s permission. Kids, Cows, and Grass is written by Debbie Lyons-Blythe, a cattle rancher in central Kansas, in the heart of the Flint Hills. Her blog is a wealth of information about how she and her family raise cattle. If you don’t already follow her, we highly suggest you do! Now on to your regularly scheduled programming…


A cow’s tongue is an amazing body part. A cow only has front teeth on the bottom of their mouth–the top is a hard pad, but no teeth. So in order to eat grass, a cow can’t bite it off like a horse, but they must rip it off with their tongue.  So the grass must be tall enough for a cow to get a “grip” on it with her tongue, and then pull it into her mouth. She does have molars on the top and bottom, so she can grind the grass up. But first, the grass is rolled into a ball called a “bolus” and swallowed nearly whole. It goes into her largest stomach, the rumen, where it is partially broken down by bacteria and enzymes in the rumen. When a cow grazes, she busily tears grass and swallows it. Later she will lie down and relax and chew her cud–which means she regurgitates the boluses back into her mouth to chew them again.  The chewed up grass then progresses through the other compartments of her stomach: the reticulum, omasum and abomasum.

Cows use their tongues for other things too–like licking their calves dry at birth. When a newborn calf is born, a cow immediately gets to her feet and begins licking him. This encourages circulation and respiration, and dries him at the same time.

After a calf grows, his mama continues to groom him with her tongue. You might even find cows licking each other on the head or neck. When a cow has an itch, she will use her tongue to scratch it!  A cow’s tongue is very rough–nearly like sandpaper. Cows don’t lap water, but they may play in it with their tongue. To drink they suck the water up through their mouth.

When my kids show cattle, their calves often lick them for the salt in their sweat on their arms. It is not a sign of affection for a cow to lick a person, but it seems that way! I have never eaten cow tongue, but I know many cultures do value it. I found numerous recipes for it through a google search, but I haven’t tried any of them.


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