If you’re feeling anxious or stressed out, consider cozying up to some cows. The growing mental health trend of cow cuddling has arrived in the D.C. region, at the 160-acre Mary’s Land Farm in Ellicott City, Maryland.
Cori Wilson, one of the farm’s employees, founded the program in March after reading about similar initiatives at the Gentle Barn, which has locations in California, Tennessee and Missouri.
Mary’s Land Farm launched its cow cuddling experience with three Jersey steers that all turned 6 months old on Sept. 1. Their names are Snap, Crackle and Pop, otherwise known as the Krispie Crew.
“We want to train them for cow hug therapy, and that’s when you lay with a full sized cow and you lay on their belly and they wrap their heads around you,” said Wilson.
Getting close to cattle can have a calming effect because the animals have warmer body temperatures and slower heart rates than humans.
“Their heart rates lower our heart rate when we spend the time that we do with them, and we release oxytocin when we’re with them, which is a stress hormone,” Wilson said.
Cow cuddling participants also feed and brush the calves, who enjoy all the attention.
“They love their job, and they stay around the people. They give cow kisses, they give snuggles,” said Wilson.
That’s right. These calves will lick you.
What surprises many visitors, Wilson said, is how rough their tongues are.
“They’re just like cats,” she said. “They actually feel like sandpaper.”
The farm raises beef cattle, but Wilson said the calves chosen for the cuddling program will be raised specifically for that reason and will spend their whole life as pets.
A ticket for a 45-minute cow cuddling session costs $150 and is good for up to eight people. That’s less than $20 per person.
You must make an appointment in advance, and they often sell out.
The farm is booking through November, but Wilson plans to offer cow cuddling sessions year-round.
Soon, the Krispie Crew will have company.
“We’re adding a Highland cow and an Ayrshire cow,” said Wilson. “My goal is to have a herd of all different cows so that I can spread knowledge on the different breeds.”