Cows are social animals, and they use mooing to communicate between themselves.
According to livestock experts, cows moo for various reasons, including to make new friends or to voice their displeasure about something.
The communication between cows involves a series of complex cattle calls, with different sounds having specific meanings.
Individual cows have distinct voices, which lets other members of the herd distinguish who is making the noise and allows a mother and her calf to recognize each other.
Cows generally moo during the day, but if you live near a cattle farm or have cows of your own, you will likely hear them mooing at night.
You may assume a cow will sleep at night, but this is not entirely true.
Superstitious people believe a cow mooing in the dark hours of the night is an omen of the death of someone close to them or a sign of evil energy, but cows moo quite often at night.
Cows sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night and are most active at the hours of dusk and dawn, but they are also nocturnal animals.
At night, the cows are usually ruminating or doing light grazing in between sleep sessions if left in the pasture.
It is also not uncommon for them to moo to each other for plenty of reasons during the night.
Keep reading for our list of the eight most common reasons cows moo at night.
There Is Danger
Cows are prey animals, so they must be alert for predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves, especially at night.
Cows have developed excellent night vision as a defense against predators after dark.
Predators will use the cover of darkness to attack any of the cows they may perceive as weak.
When a cow hears a predator growl, it will moo loudly to alert the rest of the herd to a potentially dangerous event.
The other cows may respond by mooing back, and the herd will move closer together to feel more secure.
It is crucial to have a secure fence to protect your cattle herd from predators, especially if you plan to leave them out at night.
If you hear sudden loud mooing of cows coming from your herd at night, you must investigate to ensure they are not in danger.
There Is a Lost Calf
Mother cows form a very close bond with their baby calves, and their maternal instinct is one of the strongest in the entire animal kingdom.
A cow mother and her newborn calf bond for their entire lives.
When a baby calf wanders too far from the herd or the cow mother cannot find it, she will cry out with high-pitched mooing throughout the night.
This higher-pitched call lets the calf know its mother is looking for it and puts the rest of the herd mates on alert.
Once the calf is in the cow mother’s sight, she will lower her pitch but continue to moo until her baby is back by her side.
They Are Lost
Cows are instinctually herd animals and tend to stay together because it makes them feel more secure.
However, sometimes a cow decides to go on a little adventure alone to explore.
If the cow loses sight of its fellow herd mates, it will moo loudly to communicate with them.
Other members of the herd will moo back, and they will continue this back-and-forth communication until the lost cow is reunited with the rest of the group.
They Are Hungry
If your cows are in the barn and run out of food, they will moo to let the farmer know, even in the middle of the night.
Baby calves moo if they are hungry and cannot find their mother.
To prevent your cows from mooing at night because they are hungry, ensure you leave them enough food to last until morning and be sure the mothers have access to their calves.
Cows in the pasture will also moo if they find food, so the rest of the herd knows it.
The Cows Are Stressed
Cows will moo at night if they are experiencing internal or physical pain.
This type of mooing at night is of particular concern and needs investigation.
The cow may be stuck in a trap or has been attacked by a predator and needs help immediately.
If there are no signs of a physical injury, the cow is likely suffering from an illness and is feeling internal pain.
The stress caused by the pain will cause the cow to moo until it gets some relief.
They Need To Be Milked
When a dairy cow is full of milk, it will feel uncomfortable and moo until the farmer comes to help.
The udder will appear very swollen, and the cow will be restless because of the discomfort.
To prevent this type of mooing at night, it is vital to milk the cows up to three times per day.
A dairy cow can produce up to eight gallons of milk daily, and if this milk is not expressed regularly, a cow could suffer from severe health issues.
Further reading: What would happen if you don’t milk a cow?
They Are In Heat
Female cows in heat will moo loudly to let nearby bulls know they are available for mating.
A cow will be in heat for between 12 and 18 hours, and she will frequently moo during this time until she finds a mate.
There is no set time of day for a cow to come into heat, and it is not uncommon for this type of mooing to occur at night.
Related: Can a bred cow have a false heat?
The Cows Are Lonely
Cows are very sociable animals and tend to form strong bonds with their herd mates.
A cow will moo if they are lonely and looking for its friends.
When a cow is first introduced to a herd, it will also moo in the hopes of making new friends.
Cows like to be with the rest of the herd, and if they become separated from one another at night, they will moo to let the others know they are lonely and need a friend.
Further Reading: What happens to cows when they’re alone?