3. The murderer of a Brāhmaṇ becomes consumptive, the killer of a cow becomes hump-backed and imbecile, the murderer of a virgin becomes leprous,--all three born as outcastes.

The Garuda Purana, by Ernest Wood and S.V. Subrahmanyam, [1911]

In Hinduism, does the word "cow" refer to just one type of domesticated bovine animals, the Indian cattle or is it more of a concept that applies to all domesticated milk-producing animals?

For example, is the water buffalo (pictured below) considered a cow?

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What about camels, goats and other milk-producing animals?

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If buffaloes, camels and goats are not "cows", then does it follow that there's no sin associated with killing any of these for their meat or at least it's less sinful than killing a cow (gohatya)?

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    Cow is cow . simple. Only that species not all milch aninals – Rakesh Joshi Nov 19 '17 at 22:05

By definition, every 'mammal' produces milk. Dogs are domesticated, cats are domesticated, pigs, goats, camels, horses, elephants - all produce milk.

Even lions and tigers can be domesticated.

And you are asking if, according to Hinduism, all mammals are cows ?


The word 'cow' is derived from Sankrit 'Go' shabda. Pashu means animal. Go-Hatya is the sin mentioned above. Killing other animals may also be a sin depending on circumstances, but not as grave.

In fact, Shastras allow lying in very few circumstances. One of them is to save a cow's life.

  • Lions and Tigers can be tamed. They are not domesticated. – DirghaChintayanti Nov 20 '17 at 2:11
  • 'Dogs are domesticated, cats are domesticated, pigs, goats, camels, horses, elephants - all produce milk' - yes, but from that list, people only drink camel & goat milk AFAIK. What about water buffalo or the 'Jersey' cow? I'm asking which specific species of milch cows does the term 'go' (गो) apply to... – Say No To Censorship Nov 20 '17 at 3:30
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    @sv 1. re: the penultimate comment - How did you go from "don't kill desi cow" to "kill jersey cows and buffaloes"? 2. re: the last comment - For someone bent on "disproving" sastra, any logical fallacy will do. – user1195 Nov 20 '17 at 17:07
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    @sv, In olden days Vedic people would not drink buffalo milk or goat milk or camel milk. So, there was no need for shastras to say protect them. Like I said earlier, the goal is ahimsa - all animals must be protected. I'm pretty sure Hindus are also against killing buffaloes for meat. Basically, anything whose milk you drink becomes your mother, and you shouldn't kill them for meat after their milch days are over. But that falls under the ahimsa & gratitude umbrella of shastras. Tomorrow, if we start drinking cat's milk, then we should not kill cats either. – mar Nov 21 '17 at 0:04
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    @sv, But maybe shastras didn't go into that detail cos they don't want us drinking non-cow milk. and if circumstances boil down to protecting EITHER cow OR bufallo, the cow is to be protected, because cow's milk is what should be used for ghee, which is used for yagna, which brings rain. In any case, it doesn't seem like your goal is to protect both cows & buffalo. It seems like your goal is to just point out the 'seeming' hypocrisy. I don't know why you always take an antagonistic stance, as though your mission is to either deride (or rectify) Hinduism. – mar Nov 21 '17 at 0:06

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