Cow Poop: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: July 10, 2022
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Cows appear to be simple, peaceful animals. But these creatures are more complex than they look! Cows are incredibly fascinating animals with unusual physical characteristics and high levels of emotional intelligence. In the vast majority of the world, cows are used for milking. However, cows have made many contributions (even in amusing forms) to human survival over thousands of years.

Whether it comes from an animal or a human, poo is generally not a topic of conversation. But cow dung is worth talking about as it is a resourceful material that benefits us in various ways. While some of us may find cow dung disgusting, farmers consider it an important component of the farm industry’s natural nutrient cycle that feeds animals, the environment, and communities. Like water, manure is recycled and used in numerous ways on dairy farms.

Furthermore, it is a plentiful and sustainable resource, and when it is wasted, it is regrettable. But what is the appearance of a cow’s poo? This article will answer that question and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cow poop.

What Does Cow Poop Look Like?

The color of cow poo is typically dark brown, but it can also be red, gray, black, or any combination of these colors.

©Vladimir Konstantinov/

Cow poo has a soft texture and tends to be deposited in circular shapes, which gives dung patches alternate names of cow pies and cow pats. It varies in form, consistency, and color. The color is typically dark brown, but it can also be red, gray, black, or any combination of these colors. Normal cow dung should resemble a thick cake batter in a mound with just the right amount of moisture to spread. In its ideal state, the thick, pie-shaped manure should be light to mid-brown in color.

Green manure indicates that the cow has been consuming fresh grass. The more grain the animal has consumed, the browner it becomes. The cow should be fed a high-fiber diet with more grass hay than grain if its dung is thin. However, an animal with loose feces that’s dark brown to gray in color can also be normal, depending on the type of grain in their diet.

It’s crucial to consider the animal’s roughage intake when anomalous excrement is discovered. Digestibility difficulties might occur if the feedstuff has too much lignin, and stools will stack higher than usual if this low-quality indicator is present.

What Do Cows Eat?

Zebu cow in field

Cows are herbivores that consume grass and other plants.

©Christophe Laborderie / Creative Commons

Since they are herbivores, cows consume grass and other plants. Due to their very particular eating habits, cows may consume a variety of tough grasses, and grass makes up more than 50% of cow feed. Contrary to popular belief, dairy cows consume leaves and stem from grains such as corn, wheat, and oats significantly more frequently than they eat grains like corn kernels. Although it makes up less than a quarter of their diet, cows consume some grain.

How Do Cows Digest Food?

When cows eat grass, it passes through the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum before being absorbed.

© Allan

Cows are frequently believed to have four stomachs. Truth be told, cows’ multi-compartment stomachs are significantly different from those of humans. When they eat grass, it passes through the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum before being absorbed.

The rumen is the first section of a cow’s stomach. Numerous bacteria inhabit the rumen, which serves as a storage for food while the bacteria break down the cellulose, or fiber, in the plants the cow has consumed. At this point, the food is just partially broken down and not yet digested. No stomach acid is present here, unlike in the human stomach. You can observe a cow grazing by noting how much grass, hay, or other plant material it consumes. It does not chew the meal like a horse does; rather, it moistens the food with a small amount of chewing before swallowing it whole.

The reticulum comes after the rumen. The meal enters this area, allowing the cow to regurgitate and begin “chewing the cud”—a process that breaks the food down into smaller pieces. Bacteria are also present in the reticulum. The cow, which weighs 1,400 pounds on average, eats for six to eight hours each day before chewing cud for another five to eight hours.

The omasum follows the reticulum. The meal continues to the omasum after the cow has completed chewing its cud and is swallowed a second time. It takes in water and some already digested nutrients.

The abomasum, where food is really digested, is the last unit. In contrast to the foregut, where fermentation occurs, the abomasum is thought to be the “real” stomach for all ruminant animals, similar to the human stomach. It contains bile, stomach acid, and possibly some bacteria that the rumen uses to break down the cellulose.

The digestive systems of horses and cows differ in many ways. If you compare it to cow manure, horse excrement still contains small bits of grain or grass. Since the plant material’s considerably more thoroughly broken down and digested, there is none in the cow poo.

What Benefits Does Cow Manure Offer?

Manure from cow excrement is widely used as an agricultural fertilizer. It is abundant in minerals, particularly potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. When combined with the soil, it can foster the growth of beneficial microbes. Additionally, manure can enhance the soil’s texture and aid in moisture retention.

In many developing countries, and previously in Europe’s mountainous regions, cow dung that’s caked and dried is used as fuel. Dung may also be gathered and utilized to create biogas, which can be used to provide heat and energy. The methane-rich gas is used to generate energy in rural areas of Pakistan, India, and other countries, but it is not sustainable.

Maasai villages in central Africa burn cow dung indoors to keep mosquitoes away. Rustic homes are lined with cow dung as inexpensive thermal insulation in cold environments. To keep insects at bay, most villagers in India spray water and fresh cow dung in front of their homes.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © David MG/

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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