We know that there are a lot of phobias, since you can have in excess practically any stimulus. Animal phobias, for example, are very typical (especially in childhood); today we will talk about one of them: bovinophobia .
As you can guess from its name, bovinophobia is the phobia of cows or cattle (that is, cows, bulls and oxen). Why does this phobia appear? How can it be treated? We will answer these questions throughout this article.
Bovinophobia: what is it?
Bovinophobia, also called taurophobia, is the phobia of cows or cattle (which includes cows, bulls and oxen) . Specifically, it is a specific phobia, where the stimulus or situation feared can be specified (in this case, cows or cattle).
Remember that specific phobias are actually anxiety disorders , classified as such in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders). The main characteristic of phobias is an intense, irrational and disproportionate fear of a specific stimulus. In addition to this main symptom, other associated symptoms appear, as we will see later.
Specific phobias, according to the DSM-5, can be of 5 different types: natural event phobia, animal phobia, blood/injection/injury phobia, situational phobia, and other types of phobia. Thus, bovine phobia corresponds to an animal type phobia.
Where does this term come from? Bovinophobia” comes from the Latin “bovi”, which means “ox or cattle”, and from the Greek “phobos”, which means “fear”. In the case of its equivalent term, “taurophobia”, “taurus” comes from Latin, meaning “bull”.
Types of livestock
Before going into the symptoms, causes and treatments of bovinophobia, let’s specify well which type of animals includes cattle (the phobic object of bovinophobia).
First of all, we must know that there are five types of livestock, according to the species domesticated or bred. Livestock is that group of animals raised by human beings; they are mainly mammals, which are raised to be able to obtain and market their meat and derivatives (milk, cheese, wool…).
The five types of livestock mentioned are:
- Bovine (phobic object of bovinophobia): cows, bulls and oxen.
- Sheep: sheep.
- Caprino: goats.
- Swine: pigs.
- Equine or horse: horses and mares.
Cattle includes these three animals mentioned; cows (females), bulls (males) and oxen. These are herbivorous (meat-eating) and domesticated mammals belonging to the genus Bos, of the family Bovidos .
As for their physical characteristics, they are large animals, with two horns (or hollow antlers) that retain all their life.
The symptoms of bovinophobia correspond to the typical symptoms of a specific phobia, applied, in this case, to the intense fear of cows, oxen and bulls .
1. Anxiety or fear
The main symptom of bovine phobia is intense anxiety or fear of being around cows or cattle. Of course, people living in urban environments are unlikely to encounter such a situation.
Thus, it will be the people living in rural environments who are most likely to suffer from this symptom of anxiety .
On the other hand, it is also true that this anxiety can appear when watching cows or cattle on television, without the need to see them in person.
The person who suffers from bovine phobia also manifests this other symptom, which is avoidance; thus, he avoids being in places where he can see cows or cattle (such as farms, rural environments…).
Thus, you can avoid going on certain trips to the countryside for this reason. If avoidance does not occur, the situation is endured with high anxiety (e.g. being near the cows).
3. Physical symptoms
In bovinophobia, associated with anxiety, other psychophysiological symptoms appear, which may or may not cause a panic attack (anxiety attack) in the individual. These symptoms can be sensations of suffocation, sweating, tachycardia, dry mouth, dizziness, vomiting, nausea… and have to do with the sympathetic nervous system.
4. Deterioration of quality of life
While it is true that in order to diagnose a phobia there must be an interference or a deterioration in the individual’s life, what happens if in this case the person lives in an urban environment (for example a city) where it will not be very common to see cows, oxen and/or bulls? That this symptom will not occur.
The debate is, are we talking about a case of bovine phobia here? Surely yes, although due to environmental circumstances, this disorder does not cause this interference in the patient , fortunately.
What are the causes of bovinophobia? As in any specific phobia, one of the most probable causes is having lived a traumatic situation with cows, bulls or oxen (or even similar animals). This situation may have been a bite, a blow, an attack, etc., by these animals.
More related traumatic situations can be the fact of having seen bullfights or other types of events, where bullfighters die. This includes having seen it in person or on the news. Specifically, in Spain, since the year 1700, it is estimated that some 325 bullfighters have lost their lives during a bullfight. Hearing stressful or violent stories related to cattle can also cause bovinophobia.
On the other hand, being these animals of large proportions, and even having horns, all this makes it easier to be afraid of this type of mammal (especially the bull), since in itself they can cause some respect; however, in the case of bovinophobia, this fear is excessively intense and disabling.
As far as the treatment of bovinophobia is concerned, as long as this disorder interferes in the life of the patient and the patient wants to be treated, we find different options. The main ones are two: exposure therapy and cognitive therapy (these are the most effective therapies for treating specific phobias).
Through the first one, the patient would be exposed to the phobic stimulus (in this case, the cow, the bull or the ox). One option is to do this first through static images (for example on paper), then through videos, to end up with a real experience, in which one is close to these animals (in between there would be more steps and items).
Ideally, the person could end up approaching them and touching them (in a safe and controlled environment). All these steps, logically, would be gradual (there would be a previous hierarchy).
Regarding cognitive therapy for bovinophobia, we will try to get the patient to acquire coping strategies for anxiety (for example through breathing), and to eliminate negative, dysfunctional and irrational thoughts in relation to this type of animals.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Jarrige, R. (1992). Robert Jarrige, C. Béranger, ed. Elsevier Health Sciences.
- Pérez, M., Fernández, J.R., Fernández, C. and Amigo, I. (2010). Guide to effective psychological treatments I and II:. Madrid: Pirámide.