Yoga, journaling, and mindfulness may be great options for boosting your mental health, but if you’re looking for something that is, well, different, consider a rural wellness trend out of the Netherlands: Koe knuffelen, which translates to cow hugging in Dutch.
The practice revolves around the inherent healing properties of a good human-to-animal snuggle. How it works is cow cuddles take a tour of a farm before resting against one of the cows for 2-3 hours. From the cow’s warm body temperature to its slow heartbeat and giant size, rubbing up against a Dutch cow is apparently a very soothing experience. You might give the animal a back rub or simply recline against it. In return, you might get a lick as a part of the therapeutic encounter.
Cow cuddling is thought to reduce stress by boosting oxytocin in humans, which is a hormone released in social bonding. The calming effects of curling up with a pet or emotional support animal, it seems, are accentuated when cuddling with larger mammals. Another beautiful aspect of cow cuddling is that the cows enjoy it too. In a 2007 study featured in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers found that cows show cues of deep relaxation, stretching out, and allowing their ears to fall back when massaged in particular areas of their neck and upper back.
If you want to enjoy some “koe knuffelen,” you don’t need to travel to the Dutch countryside. In fact, farms in Switzerland and even the United States are offering cow-hugging sessions. Happy cuddling folks!
Image source: Boederij Wammes