Why do farmers use horses for rides and jobs instead of cows?

Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Rebecca McDonald’s three year old daughter:

In different parts of the world, people have learned to ride and use the skills of a variety of large animals including elephants, ostriches and yaks, so it seems that culture and tradition are the real reasons why British farmers have chosen to favour horses over cows.

We are unsure when horses were first domesticated, but it is thought that in the beginning they were kept as a source of meat. They are still bred for this in some countries today.

There is evidence of horse riding in China in 4000BC and the first horse riders probably found that these creatures could carry them further and faster than other animals. They are also more surefooted than cows, which makes them better for transport in unfamiliar places. Since then, selective breeding has created breeds of horses with the right characteristics for a variety of tasks such as the stocky Suffolk Punch with its ability to pull heavy loads, the Shetland Pony which was perfect for working as a pit pony due to its small stature and the Dales Pony with its high stamina for long distance journeys.

If you would like to use a cow for rides and jobs around the farm, it is possible to train them, as demonstrated in these articles about teenage girls in Germany and Australia.