Visitors are flocking to Dumble Farm in Yorkshire, UK, to harness the potential mental health benefits of being up close with their furry residents.
If you are on the lookout for a unique way to alleviate stress, cow-cuddling could be an option.
Inside the barn at a former dairy farm in northern England, paying visitors are allowed to caress and brush cows.
"People are coming for a well-being point of view. That anxiety ‘relieving-ness’ of being with animals is almost like a therapy," said Fiona Wilson from Dumble Farm.
Wilson says some people find solace in cuddling with cows just like some other people do with dogs and cats.
"It's just really nice. I'm fond of all animals, especially cuddly ones, so being able to cuddle a big fluffy animal is really cool," Steven Clews, one of the visitors, said.
"They are so easy to brush. It's very therapeutic, which I didn't think I would say," added his wife, Emma Clews.
The experience includes educational activities on conservation and sustainable farming.
For a two-hour session, it costs about €58 per person, but even with a hefty price tag, tickets are booked months before the event.
"It was for my daughter's 16th birthday present and these are her favourite animals... I managed to book the tickets because they are quite hard to come by. You have to get up as soon as they are released to get the tickets," said visitor Charleigh Gartell.
Wilson and her co-farmers at Dumble Farm started offering the cuddling sessions in February when it became obvious that the economic difficulties of modern dairy farming had become untenable.
Wilson said she and her partners at the farm, who include her husband and brother, were working 14 hours every day of the year and still losing money.
"It's impossible to live like that," she said. "There was just no future. We were just getting nowhere".
In January 2022, they decided to diversify and sold off their dairy herd other than five cows that they could not bring themselves to leave.
"They were our friends really, with placid friendly natures," Wilson said.
Hoping to keep the farm financially sustainable, the farmers came up with the idea of cow cuddling.
Wilson said the farm prepared the cows for months before inviting customers to come and cuddle them.
"It takes us a couple of hours before we actually bring the guests in, each time we start. We feed the cows a different food, so they get nice full stomachs and they lay down cuddling, all nice and quiet and that is the best time to cuddle them, rather than when they are stood up and walking around," explained Wilson.
"They are inquisitive animals. They are interested when people come down to see them".
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