How many nipples do cows have? This topic is of great scientific interest going all the way back to Aristotle’s time.
The great scientist put forward the idea that as per the rule the number of teats in mammals means double the number of offspring in one litter.
This rule is not true, therefore, broken by many mammals, including cows that break the rule in the other direction: having more teats and lesser offsprings.
Cows having more teats might be related to the size of the claves. As they produce much larger offspring than other species, therefore, a large amount of milk is required to feed the calves.
Since cattle lack the space for big milk cisterns in the abdomen, they have developed udders to store milk. Udders have multiple nipples, wondering how many? Read on to know.
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How Many Nipples Do Cows Have?
The udders of sheep and goats are divided into two halves but that’s not the case with cows.
The udder of the cow is divided into four quarters having no nipples or teats. Each quarter contains one teat or nipple.
Cows are not the only animal having multiple nipples in a single udder. Some other animals like deer, sheep, and goats have two mammary glands with two nipples protruding from them.
Most people can not differentiate between teat and udder and often use these two terms interchangeably.
The udder is the part of milk-giving animals that expresses milk whereas teat is the projection of the mammary gland from where milk is secreted.
One other myth is that cattle have four udders, it is not true, they only have one udder divided into four sections.
In cattle, mammary glands are present at the ventral or underside of the animal. Cows can have more than 4 teats following the same “milk line”.
The number of nipples or mammary glands a cow is going to have is determined when the fetus is in the developing stage.
The number of teats is fixed at the very early stage of mammary development when the animal is still an embryo.
The early developmental structure is formed along a line of each side to the ventral midline. No additional teats or glands will grow in later stages of development.
Do Cows Only Have 4 Teats?
Even though it is widely believed that cows only have four teats, cows can have one or more extra teats.
It is not a rare condition and quite normal for cows to have extra nipples. About 50% of the cows have more than four teats, and the structure of the extra teat is different than the normal nipples. It is generally smaller and located at the back of the udder.
Each quarter of the udder has tiny sacs called alveoli responsible for milk production. It releases milk into a gland cistern which is a “storage tank” in the udder.
Milk is released from the alveoli after traveling through the nipple to the outside world.
You may be wondering that an extra nipple would contribute to increased milk production, however, that’s not the case. It has no or little impact on milk production as generally, the extra nipples have no alveoli to produce milk or are not connected to the quarter.
This dummy teat produces small quantities of milk, not enough to increase milk production.
The fifth or extra teat works in a similar fashion as the third nipple in humans. Some farmers consider it a blemish or an extra possible site of infection for bacterial growth.
Can Cows Have 6 Teats?
It is not normal for cows or ruminants to have supernumerary or extra teats, however not uncommon either.
Cows can have as many as five or six nipples. The extra teats have different sizes and structures and are often not attached to the quarter.
The size of excess teats varies significantly between small, intermediate, and large. Mostly, extra teats have small sizes.
Some excess nipples continue to grow larger, thicker with time, and become less symmetrical.
The extra nipple is, oftentimes, of no use and concern. Therefore, most farmers have it removed when the calf is one day old. It is snipped off with a sharp knife to have a nice, balanced udder.
Sometimes, removal becomes mandatory as the large enough extra teat interferes with the milking machines.
The removal of an extra teat does not influence milk production or the overall growth of the animal. The fifth teat on show cows is removed as it is considered an unwanted blemish in the show ring.
To sum things up, cows normally have four teats, however, it is not uncommon to have teats. Though the extra nipples have no or little use and do not significantly increase milk production. Having extra teats is a fairly common trait in many ruminants, so, there is no reason to be surprised the next time you see a cow with five or six teats.