Cattle (commonly referred to as cows) were first domesticated around 10,500 years ago and are descendants of a large bovine called an aurochs, now extinct. Curious and excitable, cattle can experience a wide range of emotions; they learn quickly, recognise human faces, and form strong friendship bonds. They are also wonderfully playful animals if given the space and freedom they need.

Meet our curious cattle

Elvis and his friends are just a few of the lucky cows who get to live out their lives in the safety of the sanctuary. Each of our rescued cows has their own personality, and we love getting to know every new arrival.

Our cows go out into their summer pastures

After some time in the barn out of the bad weather, our cows are always very excited to get back outside and enjoy their spacious pastures. We love to see our rescued residents enjoying life, especially when we consider the dire fates they once faced. 

Fascinating cow behaviours

Jumping for joy

Thought playful leaps were just for new-born lambs? Think again! Cows actually leap for joy too – a sign of great excitement and happiness. We see this commonly within our rescued herd, especially when they are moved from the barn out to their spring/summer pastures.

Forging bonds

Cows carry out what’s known as “allogrooming” whereby they lick other herd mates around the head and neck to show affection and forge strong social bonds with one another. Did you know that cows have rough tongues, with a texture similar to sandpaper?

Predicting the weather?

You may have heard the saying “when the cows lie down, it’s going to rain” but there is actually no scientific backing for this. Cows lie down for a number of reasons, including just to rest or “chew the cud” so unfortunately, we can’t rely on Duncan for an accurate weather report just yet!

Chewing the cud

Cattle are well known for what’s known as “chewing the cud” – regurgitating and re-chewing food that they have already swallowed once. This is to help them digest tough fibrous food, like grass. Cows actually have four compartments within their stomach, each used for a different stage of the digestive process.

Farmed vs Free

Cattle have a natural life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years. The oldest cow at our sanctuary is Blondie who is 16 years old!

Dairy and beef cows often live very different lives. In Europe, it’s common for beef cattle to be slaughtered after just 18 months, but they can live to 5 years old if extensively reared (kept outdoors). In the case of cows reared for dairy – the females’ milk production declines after the first two or three years, so it’s not uncommon for them to be sent to slaughter only a few years after this. The male calves of dairy cows are generally considered less suitable for beef production, with many either killed at birth or exported abroad to low welfare farms.

Natural life expectancy
15-20 years
Cattle reared for beef
18 months
Cattle reared for beef
18 months
Life for a cow in an intensive farming system

Life in an intensive farming system

  • Beef cattle are sometimes reared outdoors on grass, although many are brought indoors or crammed into feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter.
  • In an intensive indoor farming system, beef cattle are kept in housing for their entire lives and are dependent on humans to provide their basic daily needs such as food, shelter and water.
  • As with pigs, cattle can become frustrated and often aggressive in crowded indoor spaces, which can lead to severe injuries as fights break out.

Life at our sanctuary

  • We rotate the grazing of our cattle every other day to ensure there is always a plentiful supply of lush grass and acres of pasture to explore
  • Our cattle herd has access to a cosy barn to enjoy during the winter and enrichment items such as feed balls to keep them mentally stimulated and enjoying life
  • We carry out twice daily health checks to spot and treat any problems that may arise as quickly as possible
  • Everest the cow really enjoys being brushed so we try to do this as often as we can, especially when he’s moulting.
Izzy and Duncan the cow at Goodheart Animal Sanctuary

Adopt a cow today

Adoptions are a fantastic way to support all we do as a charity – and what’s more – you’ll receive a fabulous box of goodies to enjoy. Click the button below to get started!

Meet some of our curious cattle

Our rescued cows come from a variety of backgrounds, from the beef industry right through to beloved ex-pets whose owners could no longer care for them. Meet some of the colourful characters who call Goodheart their home…


Rufus was being reared for beef before a boy named Ashwin (who lived near his field) befriended him. After forming a special bond, Ashwin reached out to us here at Goodheart to see if we could give Rufus a home for life.

After contacting the farmer who owned Rufus, he was safely transported to Goodheart where he’s settled immediately into sanctuary life.


Duncan arrived with five other Jersey calves, all in very poor condition after being taken away from their mothers when they were just a few hours old. Frightened, bewildered, and no doubt missing mum, they were destined to be raised for veal meat before, thankfully, we were able to rescue them.

Now, the Jersey Boys (as they are affectionately known) are thriving and enjoy a life of freedom here at Goodheart.


Everest is a real gentle giant. Although he is the largest bovine at the sanctuary, he is also the softest. He will happily come running for a good back scratch or a brush (yes, he does have his own dedicated brush!) when you call his name. 

Everest is rarely seen without his handsome brother, Danny, who is a little more reserved around his human companions.