Cow Anatomy

Facts About Cow Anatomy

Have you ever wondered about cow anatomy? If you grew up on a farm, then you probably have at some point. Even if you have not, just eating a nice, juicy steak or a thick hamburger in a restaurant or at a picnic has made you curious as to where your food came from. Cows are not just for food, but have other purposes; nevertheless, they have become an important fixture of cultures worldwide and have attracted a great deal of interest in their anatomies. Here we will talk about cow anatomy, and will discuss how it applies to what you eat.

A cow is known to zoologists and farmers alike as Bos primigenius. Everyone knows what they look like; their blank, docile stares, swishing tails, hooved feet, and deep, bellowing “Moo” make them easily recognizable. And we also all acknowledge that they provide us with many food items, among them steak, milk, hamburger meat, brisket, and indirectly cheese and other dairy products. Indeed, cow anatomy provides us with a multitude of food items for our dinner tables, which is why they are a prized commodity throughout the world.

Now we will discuss one of the most interesting parts of the cow anatomy: the stomach. You have probably heard that cows have four stomachs. In reality, they only have one stomach – but this one stomach is divided into four distinct compartments. Thus, food that is consumed passes through four sub-organs, if you will, before it is fully processed. Humans, by comparison, have just one stomach and one compartment for digestion. These compartments are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, with the rumen being the largest.

The rumen can hold up to 50 gallons of food that has been partially digested. The reticulum, also known as the “hardware” chamber, further softens food and also contains items that should not be consumed by cows, like pieces of metal. Next up is the omasum, where the digested food (or cud) is further processed. The last chamber is called the abomasum, which is most like the human stomach and provides the final stages of digestion into waste. Why does a cow have a four-chambered stomach? It is because cows are ruminants, or animals that can reprocess and rechew food that is normally indigestible. This way, a cow can consume tough grasses and fibers that normally would not be able to be digested.

Now let us talk about the other interesting part of cow anatomy: the food. Do you know where your steak comes from? We all hear terms like “ribeye”, “tenderloin”, and “sirloin”, but we often do not know where exactly it originates. Your ground chuck, used to make hamburgers, is found in the shoulder area of the cow. Brisket comes from below this area, in the chest and foreleg region. In the middle, on the top of the cow, are its ribs, and behind this large area is where you find the short loin section. Out of this section we get porterhouse steaks, T-bones, and tenderloin. The tasty sirloin steaks come from the area near the rear hips. And finally, your round steak, round roast, and rump roast comes from, appropriately the rump area. Now that you know where the meat comes from, you can get a better picture of what you are ordering.

There are other interesting facts about a cow's body. Its ears, for example, can turn in any direction to pick up on threats. The long tail is adapted for swishing away bothersome pests. Also, cells within the body take water and nutrients from the cow's blood and make them into milk, which we can obtain through the udder. Furthermore, a bull's horns (i.e. a male cow's horns) are made of keratin, the same material that composes our fingernails.

In short, the anatomy of a cow is intriguing and even applicable to our everyday lives, since we consume a lot of beef. Now the next time you are in a restaurant and you order a nice steak, you can see exactly where it came from – and you can thank a cow for it!