Do cows have similar vision to humans?

Ag Safety and Health March 14, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

No, cows have what is referred to as panoramic vision. This means they can see things in all directions without moving their heads. They have 300° vision because they can see everything except what is directly behind them. A person approaching a cow from directly behind the animal is in a very dangerous position as the cow’s natural reaction is to kick toward the unseen danger.

Cows have poor depth perception. If there is an object on the ground or a shadow in a cow's path, the cow will likely stop and put its head down before proceeding. When trying to move cows, stay within their field of vision and check the path of movement for any objects or shadows that may cause the cow to stop.

Certain fence and gate configurations may challenge a cow's depth perception, making it difficult to move the animal efficiently. For example, a cow will not perceive an opening that is at a right angle to the end of an alleyway. The animal will balk at being moved in this situation.

For more information about moving cattle, click here to view the article "Beef Cattle Handling Safety."

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.