Potty Trained Cows?

If you can potty train a dog, can you potty train … A COW?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying — the real question is – why would you want to?

Well, when cow pies and cow pee mix, a gas called ammonia forms. That’s not great for the air, soil, or water. Having cows pee in a separate area would prevent this unhealthy mixing. But, CAN they be potty trained?

Enter Neele Dirksen from the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology. Dirksen and her crew of cattle whisperers set out to teach sixteen calves where to “go.” 

The cows were placed in a special area and fed treats when they went pee. That teaches them – URINE the zone! Once the cows understood that “pee zone” is a treat zone, they were MOO-ved outside. 

When the calves went back inside the “pee zone” to tinkle, they were rewarded with treats! Failure to use the “pee zone” led to a spritz of water. 

COW’d the training go? About eleven of the calves got the hang of it in just ten days! 

Simply a-MOO-zing!

Reference: Dirksen, N., Langbein, J., Schrader, L., Puppe, B., Elliffe, D., Siebert, K., Röttgen, V., & Matthews, L. (2021). Learned control of urinary reflexes in cattle to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Current biology : CB31(17), R1033–R1034. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.07.011