Cow Symbolism & The Spiritual Meaning Of Seeing Cows

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cow symbolism

Cows are pretty amazing creatures, with a full 330-degree visual field, the ability to run up to 25 miles per hour, and they can function on only four hours of sleep.

Their scientific name is Bos Taurus, and there are over 250 breeds of cow! These creatures also have an amazing sense of smell, picking up on scents up to six miles away.

Cows communicate through body language, talking to each other with the position of their head, tail and limbs. And while there are other animals who have been on earth for millions of years, domesticated cows originated from wild oxen in Turkey approximately 10,500 years ago.

These majestic animals are extremely social and often travel in herds of 20-30. And even more interesting? Cows can chew food for up to eight hours a day, moving their jaws 40,000 times!

But aside from their incredible abilities, cows have deep symbolism attached to them.

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Cow Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Cows

Cows symbolize fertility, generosity, motherhood, nourishment, the origins of life, and serenity. Cows are constantly referenced in mythology and religion to convey motherhood and related topics.

The cow is known to be holy in some cultures, and has been connected with the concept of “Mother Earth.” These animals are not only associated with motherhood, but symbolize family relationships.

Cow Encounters and Omens

Seeing a cow or having any sort of encounter with one in real life is a positive omen.

Cows are said to bring peace and prosperity into your life when you see one. Some say seeing a cow is an omen of abundance, whether it's with wealth, love, resources, or other aspects. A cow encounter can also symbolize much-needed changes that are soon to appear in your life.

What Different Color Cows Symbolize

White Cow Symbolism

White cows are often associated with purity and innocence, as well as new beginnings or opportunities. In Hindu culture, white cows are considered to be sacred animals.

Black Cow Symbolism

Black cows have both positive and negative meanings. Black cows represent hidden thoughts, financial luck, and are connected with unknown and transformations. But because black cows are associated with mystery, they can also represent betrayal or unforeseen events.

Brown Cow Symbolism

Just like brown is associated with the earth, brown cows are also said to represent grounding and nature. They are symbols of calmness, contentment, comfort, and even desire.

Cow Symbolism in Dreams

For the most part, dreaming of a cow is a good sign. It's usually a reminder of peace and prosperity, or a heads-up that good fortune may be coming your way.

It all depends on the context of the dream. Cow dreams offer knowledge and wisdom about yourself and your life, and focus on becoming a better you.

Dreaming of milking a cow

If you see someone else milking a cow, it means you will be misled by someone you trust and that you need to pay attention to your surroundings.

If you are milking the cow in your dream, it means that wealth is in your near future. This dream can also be interpreted as you acquiring something that you have been hoping for, like a material item or a romantic relationship.

Dreaming of a cow chewing cud

To dream of a cow chewing cud means you feel safe and stable in life or a relationship, or that you need to give someone or something a second chance.

This dream can also mean that you are thinking too much about a certain place, thing, person, or situation, and you need to stop. It's also telling you that you need to relax.

Dreaming of a cow licking you

Dreaming of being licked by a cow can be interpreted to mean that you're looking for peace about someone who is getting in the way of your goals. It often represents freedom, openness, and opportunities.

Being licked by a cow also symbolizes marriage, your parents, or a relationship that you can easily convey your feelings to or about. It also represents emotional or physical anguish and anxiety.

Dreaming of petting a cow

If you dream about petting a cow, you're being selfish in your life. This is your reminder to stay humble and be grateful for what life has given you.

Another interpretation is that you miss your mother. It conveys affection towards your mother or the motherly figure in your life.

Dreaming of a cow mooing

A mooing cow in a dream means you're currently facing temptation in one or more parts of your life. This could be a warning that you may come into a situation where your morals are questioned.

Dreaming of a cow running

If you dream of a cow running, it means you need to pay more attention to your work-life balance. This dream is telling you that your work is overwhelming you, and you need to spend more time cultivating relationships with your family and friends.

Dreaming of being attacked by a cow

If a cow is attacking you in a dream, it means you're being denied the love and care you require. You may be missing a loved one. This dream can also mean that a plan of yours will face difficulties, and that it's stressing you out.

Dreaming of a dead cow

If there is a dead cow in your dream, it means you have been neglecting something or someone for a while and you need to fix it. This dream could also mean that you need to let go of the "dead weight" that is holding you back; let go and start fresh.

Dreaming of a calf

If a grown cow represents mothers or motherhood, it makes sense that dreaming of a calf means you will soon become pregnant! Talk about a good omen.

Dreaming of a herd of cows

If the herd of cows in your dream are peaceful, it means your family and friends are supportive and stand by you when the waters get rough. If the herd is aggressive, it means you will need to face a difficult obstacle alone.

Dreaming of a talking cow

The talking cow represents someone in your life that you consider to be unique. This dream also symbolizes a new potential friendship on the horizon.

Dreaming of a stampede of cow cattle

Dreaming of a cattle stampede tells you that you're losing control over your life. It's a reminder that you have the ability to take charge of your destiny and get your life back on track.

Cow Spirit or Totem Animal

While a spirit animal is a spiritual guide meant to teach you lessons and make sure you stay on your life path, a totem animal is also a spirit guide, but is one you invoke when you need help or advice.

You can't choose your spirit animal, but you'll know if you have a cow as a spirit animal if you have a strong pull to them or have had a profound experience with one.

Those with a cow spirit animal are known to have a mother's intuition. They are knowledgeable, wise, and caring, often giving out advice to those struggling around them. People with a cow as their spirit animal are compassionate and watchful.

People with a cow totem will supply a sense of stability and solid, loving, growth-oriented relationships with those around them. Those with the cow totem are known to be highly protective of their families and promote collective connection.

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Spiritual Meaning of Cows in Christianity and the Bible

In Christianity and the Bible, the spiritual meaning of cows is contradictory.

Cows have been painted as the poster child for idolatry.

Psalm 106:19-23 says ,"At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea."

Aaron creates a golden calf statue to represent the god that helped his people escape from Egypt. However, this went directly against what God wanted, and showed how easily humans turn from the glory of God to worship material things:

Cows are also seen as a symbol of joy, forgiveness, and welcoming.

Luke 15:11-32 (the story of the prodigal son) says, "Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

When the son returned, his father got the calf to prepare the welcome-home banquet. This parable in the bible speaks to the willingness to forgive, and the joy of a return of the family in which a cow was used to celebrate.

Spiritual Meaning of Cows in Hinduism

In Hinduism, the cow is extremely revered. This is because one of the central Hindu deities, Krishna, is portrayed as a cowherd and a child who protects cows.

The cow is also known in Hinduism to be "Mother Earth." Cows are a source of goodness whose milk could nourish every creature. It's a symbol of the Earth, the nourished, and an undemanding provider.

In many Hindu texts, the cow was also a metaphor that fulfills all desires. Its four legs represent the four life objectives: material wealth, desire, righteousness, and salvation.

Spiritual Meaning of Cows in Islam

Cows are a very critical part of celebrating the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. This holiday honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail to obey Allah's command.

Al-Baqara translates to “The Cow.” This is taken from a passage where Moses tells his people to sacrifice a cow in order to bring a person back to life and reveal the person's murderer. In this specific scenario, only a red cow would work.

Spiritual Meaning of Cows in Buddhism

The cow is the most sacred animal in India. In Buddhism, a cow symbolizes calmness and holiness.

There are some Buddhists who believe a cow is the form of a reborn human being in the endless rebirth cycles in Saṃsāra.

Buddhists also believe that protecting animal life and being kind to animals, especially cows, is good karma.

Cow Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Cow Symbolism

In Native American cultures, the cow is a spirit animal that encourages prosperity and abundance in life. This creature teaches people to stay grounded, humble, and to take care of their environment.

Cows are also considered to be mother Gaia, a goddess of the earth, and is a sacred reminder of fertility and birth.

Far East Asian Cow Symbolism

Cows are used as important motifs in Chinese mythology. They are seen as protagonists, supporting characters, or even just as a means of locomotion. The cow is a symbol of modesty and diligence in Chinese folklore.

In Japan, cows are said to be associated with the god of scholars, Tenjinsama. There is a Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto that is filled with lifesize and miniature cows. The Japanese went so far to protect this sacred animal that it is a crime to let a cow die from sickness.

In India, the cow is the most sacred animal. The cow was said to be the favorite animal of the Hindu god Krishna, and symbolized wealth, abundance, and great strength.

African Cow Symbolism

In African cultures, cows were highly respected because their entire bodies provided something, whether it was their skin to make clothing, meat for food, milk to drink, or hooves and horns for medicine.

But cows were also a symbol of status; the more cows a family had, the more respect they received. In addition, some African cultures used cows to pay for a bride's dowry, as well as gifts or offerings to royal families.

Celtic Cow Symbolism

The cow is extremely respected in Celtic culture, where the cow is connected with the mythological goddess Brigid who represents spring, fertility, health and healing.

They also revere the animal as the symbol of motherhood and birth due to its ability to produce milk.

In Celtic culture, cows were a measure of wealth. In actuality, many battles were fought due to "cattle raids," and the meat of a cow was only ever used for big feasts and celebrations.

Norse Cow Symbolism

In Norse culture and mythology, the cow was the first being in the cosmos. Auðumbla was a cosmic cow said to have licked Búri, grandfather of the god Odin, out of a block of ice. The cow then used its milk to nourish the man.

In Norse mythology, the cow is a source of nurturing and nourishment.

Mexican Cow Symbolism

In Ancient Mexican culture, the cow symbolizes motherhood and fertility. The cow goddess Cuetzpalin, who was the "mother of all gods," is depicted either as a cow or a woman with a cow head.

Ancient Egyptian Cow Symbolism

In Egyptian culture, the cow is a symbol of motherhood and fertility, much like other regions. Egypt had its own cow goddess named Hathor who was depicted as a cow or a woman with a cow head.

Hathor was the mother of all gods and the "provider" for her people. She represented joy, music, laughter, and life.

Ancient Greek & Roman Cow Symbolism

In Greek culture and religion, cows were used for religious sacrifice and consumed as well. In mythology, cows were expected to be sacrificed to the gods because they were constantly being stolen by them. If they were not sacrificed, the gods would punish the people.

The Ancient Romans sacrificed cattle, specifically bulls, for the wellbeing of their state and the people within. They are often depicted in artwork from the Roman era on relics and mosaics.

Cow Tattoo Meaning

Cow tattoos have several meanings depending on the placement, context, and what the person interprets it to be.

Cow tattoos usually represent wealth, motherhood, good fortune, abundance, positivity, and renewal. The cow is a symbol of life, which can mean many things to different people.

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Deauna Nunes is an associate editor for YourTango who covers pop culture, lifestyle, astrology, and relationship topics. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic.