Do Male Cows Have Udders?

When somebody asked you to draw a cow you would most likely sketch a roughly square-shaped animal with four legs and an udder protruding just before its hind legs. But is this really how all cows look like?

Do male cows have udders? You might be surprised to learn that a male cow is an oxymoron, a pair of terms that contradict each other. Male cattle are called bulls or steers, depending on whether they are able to breed or have been castrated. Either of them does not have udders though, but a scrotum and, in the case of bulls; testicles. Since all mammals of all sexes have nipples, though, male cattle do so, too. 

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Do All Female Cows Have Udders? 

You might think this question is a joke, but it is not! In fact, not all female cows have udders. When it comes to female cattle, the animals are differentiated between cows and heifers.

Cows have had at least one calf and heifers have not had a calf yet. Of these two, only cows have visible udders, heifers only have teats. Looking at cattle from the side and checking for a scrotum, testes, udder, or teats, is thus the quickest and most efficient way to determine the sex of a cow. 

Do Male Cows Have Udders?
Do Male Cows Have Udders?

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The udder consists of two pairs of mammary glands, each of which has a protruding teat. Therefore, each cow has four teats in total. This is more than, for example, goats, which only have two teats, but not much in comparison to cats (usually eight teats), dogs (ten teats), or pigs (fourteen teats). 

The udders of dairy cows undergo a great deal of stress and have to be cared for very well to ensure that they do not suffer an inflammatory reaction from physical trauma or infection, like mastitis. Aside from being painful for the cow, this also leads to decreased milk production. In the care for the udder of a cow, it is important that the teats are clean and dry before milking, and that the cow has a clean and not scratchy place to sleep,  

Do Female Cows Have Horns? 

We mostly connect the image of horned cattle with the pumped up and aggressive bulls being taunted by a torero, a bullfighter. Actually, whether cattle have horns depends on their breed, not their sex. Famous horned breeds are for example the Texas Longhorns or the Highland Cattle, well-known hornless cattle breeds are the Aberdeen Angus, one of the most prestigious beef breeds, and the Holstein Friesians, famous for their milk. 

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What Is the Difference Between, Polled, Scurred, and Disbudded? 

For making a competent impression in a conversation about cattle with or without horns, it is worth it to learn these terms.  

Polled cattle are all breeds of cattle that are born without horns. Polling is dependent on a breed’s genes and it can occur naturally or can be obtained by selective breeding. 

Disbudding is the process of removing horns from young cattle and other livestock like sheep and goats. It is performed early in an animal’s life when the horns are not fully grown yet but are only buds. Hence the term disbudding! These horn buds are cauterized, which means that they are burned, which leads to the destruction of some tissue and a closing off of this wound so that the budding horns cannot continue to grow. 

Reasons for disbudding cattle are for example avoiding injury to other cattle in the herd or their human handlers, saving space, or the cattle not getting stuck in fences. When a calf has not been disbudded and grows up with horns and later on then the horns of the adult animal are removed, this process is called dehorning. This has to be performed under local anesthesia and sedation and is nevertheless a painful and dangerous process for the animal, so it is mostly avoided to dehorn instead of disbudding. 

For a cow to be scurred is a condition that sometimes happens in cattle that are actually of a polled breed and thus should be born without horns. In the case of a scurred condition, though, incompletely developed horns occur, the so-called scurs are usually only attached to the skin. Scurs can be ignored and do not need to be removed, since they are not big enough to lead to the above-mentioned problems of having horns.