Review: The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young




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, sheep, hens and pigs all roam free. There is no forced weaning, no separation of young from siblings or mother. They seek and are given help when they request it and supplement their own diets by browsing and nibbling leaves, shoots, flowers and herbs.

Rosamund Young provides a fascinating insight into a secret world – secret because many modern farming practices leave no room for displays of natural behaviour yet, ironically, a happy herd produces better quality beef and milk.


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 is something I thought this book might touch on a little, as the author herself owns a farm, but it was far more about what cows are like as animals, which was totally fine! Until she started anthropomorphising them to the extreme!

I’m perfectly happy accepting that cows communicate with each other, of course they do, like all animals do! However, I found it a bit off-putting when Young would say something about cows “consulting” or “discussing the weather”. The whole thing left a bit of a weird taste in my mouth.

I guess my biggest struggle with this book, and it appears to be the same thing for a lot of reviewers, is how Young talked so lovingly of these cows all the way through but in the end, she slaughtered them anyway. That feels bizarre to me. Factory farmers don’t care about the animals so there is no feeling there when they are killed. With Young, she talked about these cows as though they were pet dogs. You wouldn’t kill your pet dog! It just didn’t sit right with me and I can assure you it still wouldn’t have if I was still eating meat.

I did enjoy some of the anecdotes throughout this book. It was really interesting to learn about the intelligence and cunning of cows when they appear, to an outsider, such docile and clumsy beings. I think I would have enjoyed all the facts more if they were set up as such, rather than like looking back through a photo family album.

Overall, I would be interested in more books along these lines, this was a new kind of nonfiction for me that was fun to discover. But if you’re ever looking for a book about cows, I don’t think this is the best one to pick up!

A very kind friend sent me this book out of the kindness of her heart!!! Angel!!! @bclubbetty on Instagram.

12 Replies to “Review: The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young”

  1. Such a shame, since you love cows!! I was vegetarian for some time (eat fish now but that’s it due to my stomach being a jerk) but I felt the same … it didn’t really bother me if others ate meat. Especially if they did their research and purchased at more ethical places (I don’t think Canada as the big scary farms that are shown in documentaries like in the states, but still). But yes … this book seems rather … odd? I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up lol.

    Also … I might have to DM you on Insta about some good veggie recipes! I’m always on the look out!

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review! I have to say, though, none of the cows I’ve met have ever been the particularly intelligent variety. (We used to board our horses at a ranch that had a small herd of cattle for herding / roping practice.) I realize that the cows I knew were not in the same situation as a large herd of either dairy or meat cows would be, but still. These cows never discussed the weather. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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