We're Cuddling Cows on Vacation Now

The latest TikTok travel trend involves sitting around and cozying up with these "big dogs."

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Getty Images
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Getty Images

TikTok's algorithm, though complex and incredibly hard to crack, is fundamentally pretty straightforward. Music lovers will be fed music content, ASMR enthusiasts will go to sleep every night with a selection of tingle-inducing videos, and fans of oddly specific things—like the mechanics of lockpicking—will soon find themselves in a niche dedicated TikTok pocket (in this case, in LockpickingTok, which is very much a thing.)

In the same way, the so called "For You" page—or your own algorithm-personalized TikTok home—of animal lovers is likely to be filled with cute videos of pets, TikToks of silly dogs doing silly things, and an overwhelming level of animal-related cuteness and coziness. A quick digital stroll through that very popular (and very large) corner of TikTok will also probably show you that, on top of dogs and cats and the occasional raccoon, people are really into petting cows right now.

Cow cuddling is nothing super new, but it's certainly on the rise—and it's already an established wellness trend. According to a recent study by meditation nonprofit Art of Living, cow cuddling has earned itself a place in the top 10 wellness trends of the past year, ranking seventh overall. In just one year, interest in the activity grew by 85% compared to 2022, which was the largest growth rate of any activity on the list.

It is also thanks, in part, to social media that cow cuddling is now a buzzing wellness trend. Just a quick search on TikTok will reveal many videos flaunting thousands upon millions of likes apiece. From farms and sanctuaries advertising their own cuddle therapy offerings to visitors and travelers posting POV-style recaps of their experience, TikTok is brimming with cow cuddling content. One popular account, the Hawaii-based Krishna Cow Sanctuary, boasts a following of over 100,000 people and more than 7 million likes on its videos.

Jessica Hoffman—who operates Sunset View Creamery and its annexed farm together with her husband out of Watkins Glen, in the New York region of the Finger Lakes—says that it was last spring when she noticed an interest spike in her business's cow cuddling offerings. According to Hoffman, it was because of a few TikToks that went viral—including one from roughly a month ago, which showcased a Texas-based cow cuddling farm.

"I had 40-some thousand hits on my cow cuddling page," Hoffman told Thrillist. Truth be told, when you search "cow cuddling" on Google, Sunset View Creamery is the first result—but such a high number of pageviews is still above average. "There's definitely been a spike," Hoffman confirms.

When it comes to trending experiences and their social media popularity, likes and shares on the screen often translate to road trips and train rides in real life. In other words, they become travel trends as well, with people flocking to experience the latest "thing" everyone seems to be talking about. And Hoffman has witnessed this herself. She gets visitors from anywhere in the country, from Texas to Idaho, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State, and "a lot of New Jersey people." Some travelers even come for a day trip from New York City. "We're about three and a half hours one way," Hoffman says. "But I cannot believe the number of people that will drive that in one day and turn around and go back."

It’s a trend that caters to a wide audience, from the family who's looking for a more creative way to spend their Saturday to the couple on a birthday trip who is simply really into cows. Aside from social media fandom and stardom, it shouldn't come as a surprise that such an activity can reach so many people.

Cow cuddling belongs to the category of animal therapy and, according to Psychology Today, it is a practice known for reducing stress and offering relaxation and emotional comfort, as well as a general sense of wellbeing. Hoffman agrees. "I think personally it's always good to experience nature," she says. "I really think the calming effects of it just can't be beat."

Some of Hoffman's clients are neurodivergent, and a few of them regularly travel to the farm to interact with cows and spend some therapeutic time with them. Other regulars are just college kids who make the trip from their campuses, and every time they come back, they bring new guests to experience cow cuddling for the first time.

And then, there's even local elders. "My oldest person, I believe she was 96 years old and she was bound and determined that she was going to sit down with 'em cows and she did," Hoffman said. "She grew up on a farm and it had been years since she'd been able to be around one and she just sat there and just snuggled with it."

While it benefits the travelers willing to pack their bags and go surround themselves with huge, adorable snuggle buddies, cow cuddling also helps small farms survive. In 2021, to help drive the sales of the farm's dairy products, Hoffman threw the idea of cow cuddling on the table almost as a joke—but soon after, she learned through the town's chamber of commerce that it was actually a good idea.

"It is a way that a small farm can diversify," explains Hoffman. For just $15, visitors can spend 30 minutes sitting down and engaging with Hoffman's cows, and while they relax, they can both support the farm and learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced.

So far, Hoffman says everyone who has gone out to hug cows at Sunset View Creamery has loved it. And sometimes it's not the person that you would guess would enjoy it. Most people, she says, don't really realize how soft and how friendly they are, so much so that many visitors describe them as "big dogs," and who can resist a big, loving dog?

Hoffman said she has never had a negative experience with her cows and her guests, but she'll admit that one time, she had to remove one of the cows from the program. Why? Well, because she was too friendly. "She just would—I don't want to say maul you," Hoffman explains. "But she'd just always be up in your shit."

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She will beg you not to put pineapple on pizza. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.