The joys of a 'cow cuddling' experience at a unique East Midlands farm

Hug a cow? It might just beef up your confidence: The joys of a ‘cow cuddling’ experience at a unique East Midlands farm

  • Rob Crossan meets a cow named Poppy at the ‘unique’ Ahimsa farm in Rutland 
  • He’s encouraged to see cows as ‘something other than an ingredient on a farm’
  • ‘It’s novel and harmless – and my affection for cows has soared,’ he says

Cows soak up the sunshine at Ahimsa farm in Rutland, East Midlands, which offers a unique ‘cow cuddling’ experience

Closing my eyes, I lower myself down and hug Poppy. Her body is warm, her skin soft. She is calm, and I am becoming calmer by the second.

‘This is how cows will behave if you let them,’ says Ian Ashfield, who milks his herd on a small and unique farm called Ahimsa in Rutland, East Midlands.

No one is suggesting that you should pucker up to any cow at random but hugging Poppy is part of my ‘cow cuddling’ experience (unique in the UK), during which I am encouraged to see cows as something other than an ingredient on a farm. 

Ian tells me you must never approach a cow head-on, as they interpret this as aggressive.

Instead, approach them from the side and stick your hand near their face. They will either lick it (that means please come closer), ignore it (a passive signal for you to carry on) or gently nudge your hand away, which means ‘leave me alone right now’. Poppy is clearly open for attention.

As I brush her vast flank, she grunts gently. Thinking that hugging a cow would be a slightly exploitative experience that does nothing for the animal at all, I’m amazed to find Poppy clearly adores being brushed and hugged. 

‘We’ve been hugging the cows ourselves for years,’ says Ian. ‘But it’s only recently we realised that other people might want to do it, too. We’re the only farm in the UK that offers this.’

A visitor tries out the experience, which encourages people to see cows as something other than an ingredient on a farm

Ian lives on the farm with seven or eight others who, over the past four years, have grown their ‘no-slaughter’ farm to more than 100 acres.

They sell milk, yoghurt, ghee and cheese around the country, and let the cows live to their natural lifespans (which can be up to 20 years).

They expect to open some eco-pods to overnight guests later this year.

As therapies go, it’s novel and harmless — and my affection for cows has soared.

I like to think that in Poppy’s case the feeling is mutual. 

  • The cow experience at Ahimsa ranges from £65 – £100. Visit

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