• Varanasi Travel Tips Ghats India

That Time I Was Headbutted By a Cow in India…

A handful of bad things happened while in confusing and hectic Varanasi, and at the moment a cow threw me into a wall, I’m pretty sure I was thinking “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!?!” It was one bad thing too many.

Here’s what happened.

Ashley, my fun lovin’ English buddy had just been pick-pocketed and was so “it’s not a big deal” (while I remember being pick-pocketed in Barcelona and going all karate-kid on some dudes) and she was off looking for her wallet at the train station.

I was feeling super sick having just left the hospital from one of many Dengue appointments, and spent most of the afternoon puking my guts up. I headed home on my own while Ash did her thing.

Varanasi has tiny little roads, like Venice… but filled with cow poop.

The rickshaws can’t take you down, and those who travel with rolly suitcases really regret it after the cow poo build up in the wheels.

Varanasi Travel Tips Ghats India

I was told there was no such thing as a mean cow in India. Having been in India a while, I thought cows were my little pals. I would walk past them, pet them, whisper jokes to them and they’d laugh about what a hoot I am…  I mean, this guy below loves shopping for scarves as much as I do. Kindred spirits.

Varanasi Travel Tips Ghats IndiaThis next cow though… he just gave me a bad feeling. He was big and was looking right at me.

I thought I was going to vomit again and/or pass out because I was still feeling really sick, so I didn’t want to take a detour. I decided to just walk past him nonchalantly like I always do.

I think I thought about it too long- because he was pretty annoyed with me, so much so that he THREW ME into a wall with his head.

It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure what to do! He didn’t even move his feet. With just neck power, he whipped his head against me, and his horn cut my bum (and ripped my pants open, whoops, I’m sure the locals were all look at that scandalous disrespectful white girl with her ass out!).

He actually picked me up into the air and jammed me between his head and the wall. I put my hand up to protect my face and my hand got busted up a little bit, road rash style.

As soon as he let me go, I ran to the end of the alley around a corner and peeked back at him to see if he was chasing me. He still had not moved his feet. He was straight chillin’. I took a photo, obvi.

Varanasi Travel Tips Ghats India

I told my guesthouse owners what happened and they were basically like, “No, that didn’t happen. Cows are nice. You are a liar.” 

Okie dokie.

By the time Ashley came back (without her wallet) my entire left butt cheek was black and blue. We ate a sad lunch on the rooftop before going to the confusing Ghats to cheer ourselves up by watching cremations.. so that sounds a little weird, although it’s a real party feel at the Ghats- people here don’t fear death like most people.

Ever since, I’ve been a little more hesitant around cows. Obviously they are everywhere. I actually wrote an entire post about how much I love cows. I’m not going to let one bully (get it? BULL-y) get me down.

It was a not-so-nice reminder: cows are wild animals. That is one of my many tips to remember in Varanasi for the next time. Duh Rachel.




About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Christine @thetraveloguer August 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    I loved this story!! Im sorry you got head-butted, but it gave me some entertainment first thing in the morning! I was a bit afraid walking past the big bulls in Varanasi, especially one who had the biggest pair of balls ever!! I got lucky though and didn’t get pushed against a wall, you poor thing! Xx

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Glad to entertain you over your morning coffee with my fuck-ups lol ;)

  2. tina August 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I grew up on a farm in Germany and we have bulls, they are really dangerous you´re glad he let ou go. They often try to push people against a wall as hard as they can with their big heads, they have so much power that you can die. My father was once hurt really bad, his leg and 2 rips where broken, because a bull pushed him so hard against a wall. If my brother and uncle would not have been there to distract the bull so that he would let go, the bull would have killed my father. So always keep a save distance between you and a bull!!! Cows are so much nicer….because they are girls ;D! I hope you feel better soon.

  3. Justine August 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    That’s horrible! I always look at cows and think they’re so sweet. But, man, what a crazy thing to have happen to you! I kind of chuckled when I read that the people at your guesthouse thought you were lying about who the culprit was!

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Haha, yes the guesthouse might see this story and still think “that girl is crazy.. the cows here are ALL nice”

  4. Jackie Morris August 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    My sister also got head butted by a cow whilst we were in Jaipur earlier this year – so they ain’t all that nice!!

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      That’s crazy! It’s happened to so many people but I never heard about it before I came to India.

  5. Ashley August 25, 2014 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I think I would be slightly terrified of cows if this had happened to me! I couldn’t help but laugh when you were accused of lying about the whole ordeal! Ha. You’d think the bruise on your butt would have been proof enough.

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      I am a little nervous now sometimes when they are blocking my car and I need to push through to get in the car. I try to make noises like the locals do to scare them off.

  6. Gabrielle August 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Funnily enough, just yesterday morning I met a backpacker who told me about getting head butted by cows in Varanasi. I mentioned reading about something similar happening and we ended up talking about your blog! I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll have to be extra careful around the cows when I eventually get to Varanasi.

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      That’s so funny! Thanks for sharing my blog with someone else too!

  7. Emily August 26, 2014 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Brutal! What a jerk cow! Growing up with many friends from farms I would generally say most cows are calm and docile, but I am sure there are a few jerks out there. Yikes!

  8. Richelle @AdventuresAroundAsia August 26, 2014 at 12:33 am - Reply

    I’m still laughing over the fact that your guesthouse owners called you a liar.

  9. Lisa August 26, 2014 at 2:08 am - Reply

    What a horrible cow and I can’t believe they said you were lying. I saw a mean cow too in Rishikesh which was stopping people from walking across a bridge. An old man started beating it with his stick and it was getting madder!

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      I hate to see people hitting the cows to get them off the road! It’s like it’s not the cows fault it’s freakin homeless! Lisa, did you see about my new series I”m starting? If you’d like to be a part of it just shoot me an email and I’ll send you the info

  10. Emily from Let's Roam Wild August 26, 2014 at 3:53 am - Reply

    I died laughing this morning. Stories like this are what make traveling worth it :) Your writing was really great here, too! I’m impressed!

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Emily, I tried to make it funny because that’s how I see it now, although at the time it wasn’t funny at all!

  11. Chris August 26, 2014 at 5:58 am - Reply


    Sounds damn unlucky.

    Let’s hope they’ve got that anger out of the system by the time we get to the sub-continent!

  12. Victoria@ The British Berliner August 26, 2014 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Ouch! That’s so painful Rachel. Indian cows can be such cheeky buggers. I totally get where you’re coming from but the fact that your guest house didn’t believe you, is totally off!

    I’ve been there. I was walking along a path in Mandawa and I saw what I thought was a cute white cow in front of me, so I thought I would go around it, but it wouldn’t let me pass. I should have been more patient but the more I wanted to move, the more it blocked me, and then at one point, the cow gave me a huge nudge and butted me on the side of my leg. I was shocked, and then scared.
    It was black and blue for days LOL!

    • Rachel Jones August 28, 2014 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Haha omgsh it happened to you too! Not funny.. but I laughed picturing it for some reason. Glad you are ok!

  13. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster August 30, 2014 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Cows are evil! I grew up on a small horse farm in Maine. Our neighbors have cattles that would sometimes get out of their pasture. One time they were in our field so my friend and I tried to herd them back into their pastures. Apparently cows don’t like being led like a horse and started kicking at my friend. We ended up calling the neighbors to come get them! I’m sorry that happened to you (especially when you were so sick), but at least you have a gave story to tell! :-)

    • Rachel Jones September 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Oh wow that must have been scary when they started kicking! I grew up near cows too but they were always in their pen where they should be! haha

  14. Glamourous Traveller September 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    That really sucks. But I’ve learnt to remind myself whenever something crazy / idiotic happens to me on the road and I want to kill someone (or in this case, have steak. Ha!) I take a deep breathe and think about how funny the story would be when I tell my friend about it. And usually that cheers me up some.

    I love that you took that picture too. It’s like a Wanted sign.
    ‘Beware. This mean cow head butts’

    • Rachel Jones September 11, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Haha yes, everyone said OMG I can’t beleieve you took a photo.

  15. Roger December 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Lets get it straight, was it a cow or a bull? I am assuming it was a cow, in which case “he” didnt do anything. “She” did it! :) Lets get properly sexist about this.
    You’d be pissed off too if you ate plastic bags and dog shit all day long in dimly lit grimy streets and had tourists pushing you around and telling you sad-assed jokes, instead of being able to wander in a proper grassy field like cows are supposed to.

    • Rachel Jones January 2, 2015 at 10:48 am - Reply

      hmmm, not sure if you’re being mean here or if I’m taking the comment wrong.

      • Roger January 3, 2015 at 5:59 am - Reply

        Not being mean at all. I was joking about you telling jokes to the cow, but I am serious about how I feel when I see a cow wandering the streets in some crazy city in India eating crap, when they are meant to be grazing in pasture.

        • Rachel Jones January 3, 2015 at 9:50 am - Reply

          Oh Good :) Yes, it’s hard to see what they eat. Tragic. When I went to karnataka for a month, they had these half dutch / half indian huge healthy cows roaming fields eating green grass – was weird to see in India!

  16. Amanda August 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Oh, you poor thing! I’ve had a few ‘close’ encounters with wild bulls/cows, but nothing as memorable – or as shocking – as that. I’ll keep this lesson in mind when touring India – as well as to keep money securely hidden on my person.


  17. Kelly December 23, 2015 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    I came across this post after looking to the Google Guru after getting head butted this afternoon in rishikesh! I got a selfie with mine first so I totally deserved it. Glad I’m not the only one!

    • Rachel Jones December 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm - Reply

      hahaha oh you poor thing tho! it hurts like a bitch :) but yes, I’ve found out over the years that we are not alone… others are being headbutted haha!

  18. josie willson December 3, 2017 at 2:26 am - Reply

    I would like to say that I came across your article by Google searching “What does it mean when cows head butt you,” because I myself am in Rishikesh in Northern India and have also been personally victimized by the street cows LOL. I am so sorry that you got it so bad though, that’s wild.. but I believe you! There has been at least 5 times this month where a cow standing feet away from me as I’m walking by, minding my own business, has come up and charged me. My theory is that its a result being from Alberta, Canada where we have a prominent beef industry LOL.. anyway, thanks for the entertaining read, good luck with your future travels (and cows) ;)

    • Rachel Jones December 3, 2017 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      Lol! You’ve got to join my FB group, there has been discussion on there about this and so many people commented saying it happened to them too lol we are not alone!

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