If you dream of cows and cattle, what that means can be very dependent on your culture.
Some of the world’s cultures revere cows as sacred. In others, people might use “cow” as an insulting term to describe another person.
When you read the cow symbols below, some may make sense to you more than others do depending on your own upbringing. Keep in mind that your dreams generally try to communicate with you in your own language, so the symbols that are the most familiar to you are probably the most relevant to you.
Cow and Cattle Dream Summary
Cow & Cattle Symbolism
Cows symbolize abundance and nurturing, as they support humans by providing milk and other products. In United States culture, cows could also symbolize body image issues or conflicts between urban and rural life.
Common Cow & Cattle Dreams
Here are a few scenarios in which cows could appear in your dreams. Some of these overlap with basic cow symbolism like nurturing, while others are more specific.
- Dream of a cow chewing cud
- Dream of a cow mooing
- Dream of a cow being milked
- Dream of a cow farting or pooping
- Dream of a cow being led to slaughter
- Dream of a cow being mutilated by extraterrestrials
What Do Cows and Cattle Symbolize?
In the Bible, the Pharaoh of Egypt dreamed of seeing seven fat cows and then seven ugly and thin cows. The dream’s imagery also included seven full ears of grain and seven withered ears of grain.
Joseph interpreted the dream as follows in Genesis 41:29-30: “There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land.”
In this famous case, the fat cows symbolized abundance, and the thin cows symbolized lack. That sounds like a reasonable interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream even in today’s circumstances, so consider in your own dream of cows how healthy the cows looked.
Big Think reports that being able to afford to eat meat, in general, has historically been a sign of wealth. Now that meat is more affordable, researchers found poorer people eat more meat than they should for health reasons in an effort to feel more affluent.
Even if one does not eat meat, cows regularly provide milk, which can be used in a variety of nourishing dairy products. Many humans are breastfed when they are babies, so a dream in which cow’s milk is significant can symbolize this primal form of nurturing.
Hinduism Today reports that most Hindus abstain from eating beef in order to honor this abundantly giving nature of the cow: “The cow represents life and the sustenance of life. The cow is so generous, taking nothing but water, grass and grain. It gives and gives and gives of its milk, as does the liberated soul give of his spiritual knowledge.”
Cows also provide for humans: bulls plow fields and transport goods, and cow dung is used as both a fertilizer and a building material.
Cows are considered holy in India because each of them is considered the earthly embodiment of Kamadhenu, the mother of all cows, according to AnimalWised. In the stories around Kamadhenu, her ability to provide goes well beyond mere milk – she is said to be able to grant a wish to any true seeker.
Dreaming of a cow could therefore symbolize that you have or will soon get the resources that you need to go about your life.
Compare this theme of the cow providing for endless needs to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In that classic children’s story, it happens to be a tree providing for a person’s endless needs to the point the tree has nothing but a stump left, but dreaming of the nurturing aspect of a cow could similarly bring up some of the more troubling aspects of nurturing.
Dreaming of a cow, especially if you are a woman, could symbolize that you feel taken advantage of by others in your life – as in, they look to you only for what you can give them.
Some of the more difficult symbolism surrounding cows could also suggest conflict around the theme of motherhood, as noted in What Does It Mean if You Dream of Being Pregnant?
Egyptian goddess Hathor was often depicted in the form of a cow or a woman with the head of a cow, as reported by Ancient History Encyclopedia. She was a mother goddess associated with motherhood and childbirth, and she was also associated with fertility.
Even today, breeding cattle is a major part of the job of beef farmers, as described by Gordon King of the University of Guelph. Getting the cows pregnant is just a routine yearly task.
Dreaming of a cow can therefore represent concerns about one’s fertility. Maybe you will finally get a longed-for child – or maybe whatever methods you have tried in your quest to become pregnant just make you feel like a cow poked and prodded by some farmer.
Merriam-Webster defines “cow town” as “a usually small unsophisticated town within a cattle-raising area.” Dreaming of cows can therefore bring up your views on the differences between urban areas and rural areas, which is a huge component of the political divide within the United States.
Small rural towns can be nurturing environments where everybody knows everybody, and no one gets lost in the crowd. They can have a slow, relaxing pace of life.
Small towns can also be places where everybody knows way too much about everybody else’s business, or places where people who are racial or sexual minorities feel isolated and misunderstood. Even in a big city, however, small cliques can form that replicate some of these dynamics.
Your dream of cows can therefore symbolize whatever your own history is with rural life, for better or for worse. You may be craving a calmer environment, or you may be feeling that the people around you have a limited mindset.
Body Image Issues
In the United States and Great Britain, people use the term “cow” or “fat cow” as an insult, as described on Urban Dictionary. If this is your cultural background, dreaming of a cow may mean that you feel like you are fat and that you feel like there is something wrong with that.
Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University said in the American Journal of Public Health that “Negative attitudes toward obese persons are pervasive in North American society. Numerous studies have documented harmful weight-based stereotypes that overweight and obese individuals are lazy, weak-willed, unsuccessful, unintelligent, lack self-discipline, have poor willpower, and are noncompliant with weight-loss treatment.”
Many of these stereotypes are implied by the insulting term “fat cow.” However, the Yale researchers made clear that stigmatizing obesity has bad outcomes for both the individuals affected and also for public health more broadly.
Any efforts to treat obesity should focus on health as both the primary motivator and desired outcome, the researchers urged.
Cows come in different colors. If the color of the cow plays a prominent role in your dream, you might want to look at What Does It Mean if You Dream About Colors? for more detailed guidance.
One common variant of cow coloring is black and white. Dreaming of black and white cows might mean you are seeing a situation in overly simple terms without the nuance it deserves – or maybe the situation really is that simple.
You might also look at What Does It Mean if You Dream About Zebras? to see if the symbolism of another black and white animal speaks to you. That article notes that there has been controversy over whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes, and it comes down on the side of black with white stripes.
Fern Hill Farm reports, “Cattle have three basic coat colors: Black, Brown, and Red.” A black and white cow is therefore black with white spots.
If the cow in your dream is brown or red, the dream might be advising you to become more grounded in nature and the physical world. Red and brown are the colors associated with the root chakra.
Cow & Cattle Dream Interpretations
Dream of a cow chewing cud
Cattle Empire reports that cows spend up to eight hours a day chewing their cud. They need to do this because their digestive system works differently than that of humans.
If a cow is standing around chewing cud, however, the cow feels safe. If you dream of a cow chewing cud, you, therefore, feel safe and stable where you are.
It might sound like a waste of time to chew for eight hours a day, but maybe it isn’t necessary to be productive around the clock, so your dream might be telling you it is okay to relax. The human equivalent of chewing cud might be the John Lennon song “Watching the Wheels”: “I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round.”
Dream of a cow mooing
After reading about all the serious work cows providing people with milk and other products, and after reading about how some cultures venerate cows as sacred, it is a little shocking to remember that the sound cows make is as goofy as “Moo.” That’s actually in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
To dream of a cow mooing therefore can symbolize that, no matter how important you are, it’s okay to be a little silly sometimes. Psychology Today points out that spiritual leaders from many traditions have identified humor and laughter as part of a healthy spiritual life.
Cows and other animals that don’t speak with words are often good at communicating by their tone of voice. If the cow’s moo in your dream sounds happy, it probably is, and that’s a positive omen.
If the moo in your dream sounds angry, though, that probably is a correct assessment too. Look at other factors of your dream to see what the cow might be warning you about.
Dream of a cow being milked
If you dream of a cow being milked, this can represent that the things you need are within your reach, and you just have to go out and get them. This is more likely the case if you are the one milking the cow in the dream.
If someone else is milking the cow in your dream, examine your attitude toward that person. If you feel good about that person in the dream, you may receive help and support from others to meet your needs.
If the dream involves you or someone else trying to milk the cow and not getting milk out, however, you may have trouble getting your needs met. It might be a problem with lack of resources that isn’t really anybody’s fault.
If you have negative feelings, in general, surrounding the scene of the cow being milked in the dream, maybe you feel like someone is taking advantage of you, just milking you for whatever they can get out of you without any consideration of what is good for you. Alternately, maybe you are exploiting someone else in that way.
Dream of a cow farting or pooping
Cows get blamed for contributing to climate change because their belches, farts, and feces give off methane, as reported by NASA and The Associated Press. Burger King has therefore recently experimented with changing the diet of the cows in their beef supply chain, on the grounds that feeding cows more digestible food would reduce the cows’ digestive gas.
Burger King’s bizarre video ad regarding this initiative has the potential for giving you a nightmare about cow farts. If you already had a dream about cow farts that led you to this website, it could mean you’ve read a lot of news about climate change recently.
Cow poop, however, is commonly used as a fertilizer, so, if you dream of that, you may be getting the resources you need to grow.
Dream of a cow being led to slaughter
If you dream of a cow being led to slaughter, you may feel powerless in your life. You might also feel betrayed by someone you know, as cows are typically led to slaughter by the very farmers who nurtured them their whole lives.
Cows that are slaughtered then provide nourishment to people who eat meat, so this dream could also represent a sense that you are sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others in your life, or that others in your life are sacrificing themselves for your benefit. Sometimes people have relationships of this sort willingly, where everyone involved truly feels good about the sacrifice being made, but people can also be manipulated into sacrificing for relationships, and they then tend to feel resentful about it.
The Jewish system of kosher meat preparation and the similar Muslim dietary standard of halal as described by the Islamic Council of Victoria include techniques to minimize the animals’ suffering. However, both kosher and halal developed before the modern practice of stunning animals before slaughtering them, so this has led to conflict between those who want to follow their ancient traditions and the laws of many countries that now mandate stunning, as described in a report by The Law Library of Congress.
If you are Jewish or Muslim, dreaming of a cow being led to slaughter may therefore refer to situations where you feel different from others because of your religion or culture.
Dream of a cow being mutilated by extraterrestrials
A common feature of TV shows, especially those on HISTORY, that explore the possibility of extraterrestrial contact with Earth is investigating incidents of cattle mutilation. NPR provides an account of such an incident that took place in the western United States during 2019 in which “Five young purebred bulls mysteriously showed up dead on the ranch this past summer, drained of blood and with body parts precisely removed.”
Assuming you wake from a dream of cattle mutilation without any strange new implants in your own body – in which case it might be something other than just a dream – this dream could refer to feeling powerless.
Maybe you are processing a situation where you or someone in your life received medical care, and the doctor seemed arrogant or careless. Even in a best-case scenario, however, needing medical care can bring up feelings of powerlessness and anxiety about others messing with your body.
Cows are common in many parts of the world. While most cultures agree on the nutritious importance of the milk cows provide for humans, the symbolic interpretations can diverge widely from there.
Whether you grew up with cows being portrayed in a positive or negative light, you are likely influenced by that portrayal. Studying your dreams can help you clarify whatever influences are lurking in your mind – and, if you aren’t happy with what you find, knowing that is the first step to changing it.
Eva Sylwester has been fascinated with the interpretation of dreams since middle school. She got a B.A. in psychology and religious studies from the University of Oregon in 2007. After that, she began exploring astrology and other new frontiers in spirituality. In her approach, the goal of dream interpretation is to help the dreamer articulate their own intuition. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, United States.