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Cuddling with Cows Is the Cutest Form of Therapy

If you’re looking for a unique but sure way to let loose and forget about the stress of your daily life, head off to the Swiss country side for a session of cow cuddling therapy. It’s sure to do the trick!

Sibylle Zwygart’s family runs a dairy farm in Tenniken. Switzerland’s Basel-Landschaft canton. Three years ago she and her father were watching over one of their cows during calving, and while the birth of three adorable calves was usually a joyous event, this time was different. Her father’s trained eyes immediately noticed that two of the calves were sterile females, and the third was a bull, so none of them were of any use for their dairy business. Sibylle’s father planned to sell them all to the slaughterhouse, but she pleaded with him to let her keep them.

It took some convincing, but the farmer finally gave in to his daughter’s heartfelt pleas, on one condition – that she somehow find the money to cover the cost of their feed and veterinary bills. Sibylle agreed, and has spent most of her time since then looking after and training the three animals, which she named Svea, Sven and Svenja. As soon as they were old enough, she started putting them to “work”.

Photo: Buure TV screengrab

First, she decided to make one of her childhood dreams a reality, so she opened a cattle-themed adventure park for kids, where children as young as seven could come and learn about cows as well as interact with them. “Many kids today don’t even know where milk comes from, and some have never experienced country life,” Zwygart told BZ Basel. “This is also about getting children into a relationship with agriculture again.”

Kids would come and feed the three friendly cows, clean them, walk them around the farm and learn all kinds of interesting things about them. But this was only the beginning of Sibylle’s project. She soon started looking for sponsors, animal lovers willing to pitch in 5 Swiss francs a month to cover the costs of raising them, in exchange for cow cuddling sessions.

Photo: Buure TV screengrab

The 25-year-old came up with the idea for cow cuddling therapy after reading about it being used in the Netherlands to help people slow down their hectic lifestyle and relax. She thought Svea, Sven and Svenja were perfect for the “job” and for the last year, Zwygart has been organizing cow cuddling sessions on her family’s farm in Tenniken.

“Cows are particularly suitable for cuddling, as they like body contact and are quiet animals,” Sibylle Zwygart told Buure TV. “Because of their peaceful nature, they also help people close to them relax.”

Photo: Buure TV screengrab

A cow cuddling session starts with a brief theoretical introduction, where visitors learn about the animals. Then, they get to know the animals better and earn their trust by patting and cleaning them. Once a mutual trust between the cow and the person has formed, it’s time for the most enjoyable part, the cuddling. The whole things takes about two hours.

Cow cuddling on the Gisiberg farm is available to everyone, even kids above the age of seven. Each session costs 50 francs ($50), which is not very much by Swiss standards, but Sibylle says that she has only had 10 takers in the last year.

Photo: Buure TV screengrab

“It is unfortunately that not many people in Switzerland know about my cow cuddling sessions,” Zwigart said. “That’s why I was not able to earn enough to cover the cost of raising the cows, so my father has had to help me.”

Mario Becker, an animal behavior expert, doesn’t agree with Sibylle’s idea, arguing that cows are not “cuddly” animals. “It’s true that cows are quiet and enjoy body contact, but they can be unpredictable don’t feel a natural need to cuddle with people.”

 

However, the expert agrees that cows can be trained to accept cuddling, but cautions people to earn the trust of the animals before getting to close to them and avoid making sudden and large gestures with their hands so not to scare them.

If cows just aren’t your kind of animals, perhaps you’d be interested in a session of goat yoga instead. Or if you’re more of a pig person, head over to this pig sanctuary in Holland, where you can chill with friendly hogs.