Do Cows Have Whiskers?

Do Cows Have Whiskers

Almost all mammals have whiskers- including us! But while we do have whiskers, they are different than what you might think of as whiskers (like the whiskers your pet dog has). Now that you know that you have whiskers, you may be curious about the whiskers found on our faces, as well as if some of our favorite animals have whiskers too. But first, let’s learn more about these whiskers.  

Do cows have whiskers? Cows do have whiskers! Their nose and mouth are surrounded with whiskers. They cannot move them, but they do use these whiskers to gather information about the environment around them. The whiskers on cows are not as noticeable as other animals because cows do not sniff the air like cats. Instead their whiskers pick up vibrations or different scents, giving the cows information. 

RELATED: Do Male Cows Produce Milk?

Wait, we have whiskers?! (what are whiskers) 

The scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae. The vibrissae are different from regular hair or fur because they are thicker and often longer. The vibrissae are also sensitive and they have more nerve and blood cells than in regular hair follicles. The nerve cells are called mechanoreceptors. Some animals can move their whiskers so that the mechanoreceptors can gain information.

The mechanoreceptors make whiskers sensitive, feeding information to an animal’s brain, much like how if we touch something with our hands, information on the object’s texture, temperature, and more are sent to our brains.  

The whiskers that we have are not like the whiskers on a cat or mouse. The little hairs on our face do not really send any information to our brains, but instead keeps us warm. Our facial hair also works to protect our face from the elements (like wind and rain).

Even though we do not have the traditional whiskers that you may think of when you think of the word whiskers, we still have the remains of the muscles that are associated with vibrissae on our upper lips.  

Other animals, like cows and horses, have whiskers too. They cannot move them but they have them on their faces. 

What mammals do not have whiskers? 

The only mammals that do not have whiskers are animals in the monotreme family. Monotremes are characterized by the fact that they are the only mammals that lay eggs. The only monotremes are the platypus and the echidnas. All other mammals have whiskers, in varying degrees.  

Do birds have whiskers? What about reptiles? 

Some birds have facial fathers that are used like whiskers. The whiskered auklets are birds that are found on islands in the North Pacific. They have bright, white feathers around their eyes, and these feathers are used similarly to whiskers. These birds are nocturnal, meaning they are awake during the day, and sometimes at night it gets so dark that the birds cannot really see well. They use their face feathers to get a sense of their surroundings, just like whiskers do! Reptiles do not have whiskers – in fact, reptiles do not have hair at all!  

RELATED: Do Pigs Have Whiskers?

How exactly do whiskers work? 

Whiskers
Whiskers

Some animals, whisk their whiskers around. For example, there is a small animal called an Etruscan shrew. These shrews are so small that they weigh less than a teaspoon of sugar! These tiny animals use their whiskers by flicking them about 20 times every second. The whiskers brush their food source – crickets – and that tells them where exactly the crickets are. These shrews have both short and long whiskers and they need both of them to find their food

Other animals, like seals, use their whiskers to find food, but their whiskers never actually touch their food directly. The harbor seal has very sensitive vibrissae. The vibrissae can feel the trail that another creature leaves while underwater. For example, a seal will recognize that a fish swam by about 30 seconds ago, just by feeling the vibrations in their whiskers! And then they can go and get their meal. 

Why does my dog have whiskers? 

Dogs have a great sense of smell and hearing but their sight is not so great. So their whiskers help them to “see”. When a dog approaches something, the air currents bounce off of their whiskers, helping them to get an idea of what is around them. Whiskers in dogs also help them communicate their emotions too!  

RELATED: Do All Dogs Have Whiskers?

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.

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