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How to Draw Animals: Cows and Other Bovines

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Read Time: 7 mins
This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: Snakes and Their Patterns
How to Draw Animals: Domestic Pigs, Wild Boars, and Warthogs
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What You'll Be Creating

Although cows may not seem like the most graceful animals, they're a great material to study. In this tutorial I'll show you everything you need to know about anatomy of cow, but also American bison, cape buffalo and yak. You'll learn about the structure of their body, characteristic features, and how to draw details to make your drawn animal look like a real bovine, not a horse or horned dog.

You can learn them all one by one, or just pick your favorite. Ready to try?

Draw the Cow

Let's start with the cow. Just like with dogs, humans created many breeds of cattle for their needs, so there are cows of various shapes and sizes. We're going to focus on the most classic shape, but feel free to modify it to create your own breed.


The skeleton of the cow is going to be our base for the other species. There are a few features worth remembering:

  • Although the body can be similar to a horse's at first, the legs and neck are shorter;
  • The skull is big and long;
  • The chest is very wide;
  • There's a hump over the shoulder created by the spine;
  • The hooves are cloven, just like the deer's.
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The skeleton of a cow

We can simplify it to such a basic pose. However, we need to learn much more to create a believable cow's body.

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Simplified skeleton


Cows are usually short-haired, so the muscles may stand out strongly under the skin. Drawing them will prevent you from creating a flat body. What's important, there's a loose skin under the cow's throat and neck, making it look wider than it really is. It's especially good-looking on a strong bull.

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Use the arrows to memorize the muscles better
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Muscles of a cow

Body Features

  1. Bow males and females can have horns, depending on the breed. Their shape is very various too;
  2. Ears are long and wide;
  3. The shoulder hump doesn't need to be very distinctive, but it's good to stress it for a strong bull;
  4. The tail is long and tufted, used to drive off the flies;
  5. The chest hump is crucial for a cow look;
  6. The belly is rounded.
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The features of a cow's body


The body can be easily divided into simple chunks that will help you create a neat silhouette.

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Follow the arrows to draw a proper silhouette for a cow


We're going to learn about the head later, for now just keep in mind cows are a good template for every bovine.

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A cow's head

Draw the American Bison

The American bison is a great base for some creature from hell, a blood-thirsty mount. Just look at this hump!


It's important to understand the bison's skeletal structure in order to truly plan their pose. Without it you could get under impression bisons have huge shoulders, while they're actually very cow-like. Anatomically, the characteristic hump helps create force needed for managing the heavy head of theirs.

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The skeleton of an American bison

Body Features

  1. The "real" head is hidden under fur, what makes it look bigger than in reality;
  2. Both sexes have horns, they're quite short, and also more slender and slightly twisted at females;
  3. The hump is much less pronounced at females;
  4. The tail is short and tufted;
  5. There's a distinctive "beard" under the mouth;
  6. The thick mane covers the front of the body;
  7. The "pantaloons" look like a continuation of the mane.

When it comes to colors, bison's fur is dark brown, with the front and lower part being darker.

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The features of an American bison's body


When drawing the silhouette, it's the most important to stress the big front and inconspicuous back.

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Follow the arrows to draw a proper silhouette for a bison


  1. The mane needs to be added to make the head look bigger;
  2. The muzzle may be a little bit shorter than at the cows';
  3. The ears are small, furry and not very distinctive.
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A bison's head is a cow's head hidden under fur

Draw the Cape Buffalo

Cape buffalos are very fierce animals, as dangerous to humans as lions, even though they may not look like this. Let's see how to draw one!


Again, we've got a typical cow skeleton, with the main difference being the tail structure and thick, overlapping ribs.

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The skeleton of a cape buffalo

Body Features

  1. Both sexes have big and thick horns;
  2. The hump is not very distinctive;
  3. Hips are well visible under the skin;
  4. The tail is long and tufted;
  5. The tummy is rounded.

The body's color is dark chocolate or black.

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The features of a cape buffalo's body


Just like with the skeleton, the silhouette is very cow-like. Pay attention to hip area.

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Follow the arrows to create a proper silhouette for a cape buffalo


  1. Horns are rooted into the forehead, covering it;
  2. Ears are very wide and placed behind the horns, with two distinctive "fringes";
  3. Eyes have an angry look.
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Cape buffalo looks like an angry cow with fluffy ears and huge horns

Draw the Yak

Fluffy yaks are not very popular animals, but can you imagine a better mount for a frozen land?


The cow resemblance is still very apparent here. Pay attention to the hump and short tail.

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The skeleton of a yak

Body Features

  1. The head is covered with fur, but not as strongly as at the bisons;
  2. Both sexes have long slender and twisted horns;
  3. The hump is well pronounced and it slides across the neck;
  4. The tail, though short, is covered with so long hair that it looks horse-like;
  5. Legs look very short under the fur;
  6. Whole body is covered with thick fur, but at the lower parts of the body especially long strands of hair are visible.

The fur is usually dark, brown or black. Domesticated yaks are sometimes bred selectively for white fur.

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The features of a yak's body


The silhouette is gentle, leveled by the fur.

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Follow the arrows to create a proper silhouette for a yak


  1. The ears are small;
  2. The forehead is covered with a curly fringe.
Add long horns and thick fringe to a cow's head

Bovine details


We'll learn how to draw a cow's head in every position, and then, using the tips from above, you can modify it to create the other species too.

Step 1

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Make the head out of three circles

Step 2

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Add the nose

Step 3

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Define the eye area

Step 4

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Define the eye's ridges

Step 5

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Add the eye between the ridges

Step 6

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Define the place for horns

Step 7

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Add the ears

Step 8

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Draw the outlines


Hooves of every bovine are cloven, with four "fingers".

Step 1

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Start with defined "ankle" and and fingers

Step 2

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Define the top of the hooves

Step 3

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Add domes to them

Step 4

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Use the guide lines to outline the hooves


To draw horns correctly you need to know a bit of perspective rules. Most horns will have a circular cross-section, and these circles will shrink to ellipses when turning away from you.

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Horns change their appearance drastically when rotating

The easiest way to simulate this phenomenon when dealing with more complicated, twisted horns, is to divide them into cylinders and cones.

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1 - bison, 2 - cape buffalo, 3 - yak


Eyes of every bovine are big and round, but they may look smaller at the more fluffy species or breeds. They're mostly dark, with horizontal pupils and long eyelashes. Some of white of the eyeball can be visible, especially when the eyes are wide open.

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Draw the eyes round and dark


The ears are wide and usually rounded, with distinctive depressions. This "three-valleys-look" is the most visible at cape buffalos.

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Draw the ears with three depressions


Mouth is very important for a full cow-look. The lips should be thick and flagging, and the nose holes big and ready to be opened wider when needed.

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Draw the nose as a part of the mouth

The End!

Now you know how to draw a cow, an American bison, a cape buffalo and a yak - and you can use their features for your imagined creatures too. If you liked this tutorial, check my others as well - we've got plenty of animal tutorials like this!

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