According to bovine behaviour experts, there are only five syllables in the cattle vocabulary. The scientist who learned to speak cow sat recording their voices in the cowshed, and out in the field with his subjects. He attempted to capture a representation of the cow’s sounds using his own alphabet, and he took notes on each vocalisation that he observed. This is what he came up with.

m – en – en – h- uh



The mouth is closed, the sound comes through the nostrils. This sound is made when a familiar cow or human approaches, in courtship and at the anticipation of a pleasurable event such as milking or feeding. If you were a bull guarding a female cow during her oestrus you might make this M sound. Each animal has its own distinct M sound, and sometimes cattle call out to one another in what seems to be an act of communication and recognition, of naming and saying: Here I am.


The mouth is open and most of the sound comes through the mouth rather than the nose. Glottis and lips may be tightened as the pitch increases.


A sudden increase in frequency and amplitude from the previous EN sound. As when overblowing a wind instrument.


The mouth opens or closes as the diaphragm relaxes after forming the EN sound.


A rapid inspiration.



The sounds are usually combined into the following range of calls.






This is a cow’s language translated into that of a man. According to the experts, the animal makes these calls when it is excited or afraid or when it is waiting for something.