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The Secret Life of Cows

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  3,120 ratings  ·  498 reviews
Cows can love, play games, bond and form strong, life-long friendships. They can sulk, hold grudges, and they have preferences and can be vain. All these characteristics and more have been observed, documented, interpreted and retold by Rosamund Young based on her experiences looking after the family farm's herd on Kite's Nest Farm in Worcestershire, England. Here the cows ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Good Life Press (first published June 26th 2003)
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Petra-X has been locked down for one full year
This was really bad. And I speak from a point of view of knowledge. I know cows as cows who are not subject to people at all, I've been observing 'wild' ones for decades, mostly in my garden where they eat what they fancy every now and again. (They like psychedelic magic mushrooms but I've not seen if they get high or not on them). Cows are not farmed in farms here, the farmer lets the gardens of the whole island feed them and they just cull the baby bulls, the cows are free to live out their li ...more
I got to page 33 out of 137. These anecdotes about animal behavior, gathered over Young’s decades of working on Kite’s Nest Farm, a small family operation in the Cotswolds, were originally published in 2003. I’m not sure what led to them being reissued recently. I liked and couldn’t fail to agree with her introduction about the evils of factory farming and how much better it is to let animals live out their natural behaviors. One of her theses is that animals are just as individual as humans, an ...more
Sally Boocock
I read this book as it is to be our nonfiction book of the month and being a vegan was interested in learning more about cows. However as lovely as it is to name all your cows ,and I do appreciate the fact that they have free reign to a degree as to where they go the end result is still the same. It is still a business, maybe not in the way of factory farming but they are still killed however humanely. I smiled at parts of the book but still feel that this should not be happening. I can believe ...more
Most people probably don’t even consider where the milk comes from when they reach to get it from the fridge for their morning cuppa. When they do venture into the countryside, the may be vaguely aware of these black and white animals in the fields as they flash past in the car. It is only when they have left the climate controlled atmosphere that they realise quite how big they are. Sadly, modern factory farming sees them as machines to either pump milk from or to be dosed full of antibiotics t ...more
Aoife Brown
I loved the stories about the cows, and how Rosamund recognises them as individuals with their own personalities. However, I cannot fathom how she can claim to love these cows yet sells their bodies for beef
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful little book, and a breeze to read. Young has a deep respect and affection for the animals in her charge, and a great knowledge of sustainable and ethical organic farming. Her years of experience tending to animals is a fitting testament (if you still needed it) to the fact that all creatures, including cows, have their own unique personhoods - thoughts, feelings, imaginations, desires - just like humans do.

She and her family are right when they claim that all farms should pr
Charlotte Jones
I was excited to read this because I thought it would give information about the intelligence of cows but I found that this felt like Rosamund just taking notes of the day-to-day happenings on her farm, with the odd preachy section dotted throughout. I completely understand the frustrations that the author has regarding mass-farming and I agree, but on the whole I found that the book was more about describing the personalities of particular cows on her farm rather than a more scientific approach ...more
Michael Slusher
Feb 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tell us about the beautiful minds of these magnificent creatures and THEN KILL THEM!!!

I love it when malzoans tell people how much they "love" animals, scritching them behind the ears and under the chin as if that justifies their slaughter. My copy of this book is heading immediately to my compost pile, since it is nothing but male cow manure. Of course, that's assuming the vile message inside doesn't taint my garden.

A short review of this book: Hypocritical author tries to sugarcoat mass-murder
This could have been a nice little book in favor of vegetarianism and veganism, with all its cute stories about cows and hens and piglets, their families and friends, and their diverse personalities.
Alas despite the decent treatment and freedom these creatures get, they still end up being butchered.

Additionally, the book felt commercial at times, and got boring at others.

Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised at the mediocre rating of this book. That was, until I started reading the comments. Let me say this: If you are vegan or vegetarian and are looking to read a story in which animals are rescued from mass-production and get to live out their remaining years on a quiet little farm, this is not the book for you.
This is a book about farming. About a family trying to make a living. And even though – as many, many people have repeatedly mentioned here – they accomplish this by “raisin
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Rosamund Young is a farmer who runs Kite's Nest Farm in the Cotswolds. She writes of her observations of cows and how they are intelligent animals with personalities as diverse as our own. She shares anecdotes about her interactions with her animals and their behaviours.

When I read about this book I was confident that this was going to be a very good read but in reality I felt let down and while the book was interesting in spells it failed to grip me like I hoped.
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is charming, adorable, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. It’s perfect for anyone who’s fond of animals or - like me - attributes personality traits and facial expressions to them. It also makes a very good case for organic farming, and although it is a little odd that Young only briefly touches on the fact that her cows are mostly bred for meat, she does make it clear that that is not what this book is about: rather, it is a portrait of her cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, and a beauti ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I so enjoyed (and learned so much from) this enchanting and informative look at the secret lives of cows, pigs, hens and sheep. Young is a good storyteller and educator as well.

Thank you to Edelweiss for the ARC
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june-2019
I had heard a lot about Rosamund Young's The Secret Life of Cows, first published in 2003 and recently reissued, and was keen to get my hands on a copy.  I love nature writing, but have never read anything cow-specific before, and am always ready to learn new things.  Lydia Davis calls this slim book, which runs to less than 140 pages, 'absorbing, moving, and compulsively readable', and Philip Callow believes that it is 'a little masterpiece of animal sentience.'  Other reviews have been rather ...more
Smitha Murthy
How can you resist a book with a title like that? When I heard of this book, I just had to read it with my fellow animal-loving friend. We chuckled over the passages in this book, and I think I will never look at a cow in the same way again!

Rosamund Young's love for her farm animals shines through the book - I only rated it a tad low because I struggled to keep up with all the names, but that doesn't take away the fun of reading this book. This is not a writer's book. You read it because you lov
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this little book about cows...there is also a bit about sheep, hens and pigs.
Living in the Countryside as I do I really appreciate this insight into the behaviour of farm animals. Cows usually freak me out just staring and following me when our paths cross but now I realise there is meaning behind those stares! I might have to go about with an apple in my pocket on future walks! On a more serious note, this is how farming should be and I fully endorse this farm and will continue
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I listened to this book over two days while I worked alone in my office. I really loved all the stories of the cows and the commitment Rosamund Young and her family display to ensuring their stock of animals is healthy and, I suppose, happy. I am not a vegetarian and will probably never be one, but this book has made me think about what type of meat I buy and consume.
Andy Jackson
Sep 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
A book about the intelligence and beauty of cows, how personable and emotional they are, that, without any remorse whatsoever, sends them off to be slaughtered for beef products. The cognitive dissonance is so genuinely maddening at times that it's impossible to fully comprehend. ...more
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
boring and also lowkey annoying and also how can you get so very close to the point (“animals are smart, caring and all around similar to humans”) without hitting it (“and thus we maybe shouldn’t eat them since we don’t have to”) but pretty
Zuky the BookBum
This was a very different kind of read for me and while I'm really happy I branched out and gave this one a go, I'm disappointed by the book in general. There were definitely some good takeaways from it but the whole thing overall left me feeling a bit strange and unsatisfied.

I’m vegetarian myself, but I don’t have an issue with others eating meat. I just think everyone should take a minute to think about what they’re consuming and make better choices. Try and buy locally and organic etc. This i
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cows
I really enjoyed the majority of this book. The author is a farmer in Norfolk. Most of the book describes incidents or stories involving individual or families of cows on her farm. The chapters are informative and entertaining, letting those who may not be aware know in a roundabout way that cows are intelligent, often affectionate, social beings, with many characteristics and abilities that we like to reserve for ourselves.

My only reservation is with the introduction. The farm is a beef produc
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Charming and absolutely random stories about animals on an English farm. The narrator obviously loves all her animals and has made some fascinating observations, which made me want to visit her farm. Nevertheless, the book would have profited from even a little editorial attention. As it is now, the book is all over the place, pays in depth attention to details that aren't really essential and glosses over the more interesting bits, while having no structure at all.
Still, Young obviously means w
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cows are perfect. Sheep are perfect. Pigs are perfect. Chickens are perfect. Rosamund Young's observations and writing are perfect. Her philosophy of animal-rearing and equal / individual consideration is perfect. What I don't understand is how her family can stomach killing and eating these beautiful beings whom they know so well... ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shout out to @cups for the recommendation on this one.

A very nice, easy read about the life of cows. It does make interesting reading that the author and her family are clearly so attached to the cows and have strong relationships with them individually, and yet they ultimately kill them for food & profit (so it's not super vegan). But it is eye-opening at how varied and distinct each cow is, which I'd never really thought about. I guess it makes sense - I've had a few different pets (cats & dog
Rob O'Hearn
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Do cows have jealousy? Do they make friends and play favourites amongst the herd? If we watched them as closely as Rosamund Young does, we'd have no doubts. They converse with other, get standoffish and have spats. They greet old friends with a kiss. They frolic and dance. Growing up on an organic cattle farm, Young has collected stories of generations of cows, and she shows us a complex community, one of grateful old aunties, chatty cousins, young hoodlums, and even vain princesses scared of ge ...more
Karen Mace
Listened to this on audiobook via Borrowbox.

This was a sweet and charming little box of anecdotes from a clearly smitten farmer, Rosamund Young, as she recounts her experiences and insights into the animals she and her family have taken charge of for a number of years. When you see cows in a field you don't give much thought to the bonds they build up, but Rosamund shares many funny stories of things she's seen and noticed over the years of the politics, friendships and craftiness of the cows un
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Informative, thoughtful, straightforward account of a few dozen farm animals and their personalities and daily adventures. I've never been so charmed by a collection of anecdotes. This author/farmer learned from personal experience that raising animals with health, space, real food, and freedom of movement was the right thing to do but also, turns out, a far healthier option than the savagery known as factory farming in which most humans are complicit.
While this is mostly about cows,
Molly Brown
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you need to read a book about the capacity for intelligence and emotions in the earth’s inhabitants that aren’t human. This book is not structures, but it is a conversation at a kitchen table about a lovely family of cows and other creatures. Pour some tea and have a read.
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