What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?

Do you have that problem where most of your hair goes nicely in one direction, but one little bit just won't listen to reason? Well, congratulations, you have a hair cowlick. How exactly do cowlicks in hair work? Why do they happen? These are some questions you might have asked yourself if you have trouble styling your hair. Lucky you, this list has the answers you're looking for. 

For those few of you who have never heard the term before, a cowlick honestly doesn't have to do with cows or licking, other than etymology. Cowlick hair is mostly just a nuisance, a clump of hair growing in a different direction than the rest. That sounds like a simple explanation, and it is, because the truth of the matter is much more complex. 

So, if want to know more about why your hair does what it does, get ready to read about some pretty hairy stuff. 

  • Almost Everyone Has One, Even If It's Not Evident

    Cowlicks are very common. A study conducted in 1972 showed 94% of newborns in the US had them. But here's the thing: you might not always be able to tell if someone has a swirl. Long hair makes cowlicks hard to detect, as do certain hair textures. Cowlicks near the front of the hairline can appear to be intentionally styled aspects of a hairdo, such as bangs. 

    Short hair makes cowlicks very visible, especially those on the top of the head. Wookies have them, too, but don't worry too much about it. 

  • Most Cowlicks Are on the Top of Your Head

    The vast majority of cowlicks appear at the crown of the head, which is the spot where the top and back of your head meet. This is because hair moving in different directions tends to join at this spot. Other spots for sworls include the nape of the neck and the very front of the hairline. The can also show up in body hair, on the chest, legs, and even in beards. 

  • Animals Get Them Too

    If you've ever had a guinea pig, you won't be surprised to learn that animals get cowlicks. Many different breeds of guinea pig get them all over their bodies. On the upside, cowlicks are desirable in some guinea pig breeds, so no one really shames them for having one. Horses often have them in the center of their foreheads, dogs get them (which can be problematic for show breeders), and cats can get them. 

  • Famous Models and Actors Have Struggled with Cowlicks

    Cowlicks aren't exclusive to plebs and schlubs. A number of famous, very beauitful people have dealt with them, as well. Claudia Schiffer has not one, but two, cowlicks at the front of her hairline. Rather than stress over controlling these sworls, she styled her hair to them, using her unique hair pattern to create an iconic look. 

    Actresses, actors, models, and stylists all have to deal with cowlicks, and some have definitely used them to their advantage. 

  • Race Figures Into Cowlicks

    Which hand you use isn't the only factor in which way your cowlick goes. For example, 95% of caucasian Americans have a single cowlick, and 80% of them have a clockwise swirl, which is the highest occurrence of that type of cowlick in the world. Numbers vary by nation and heritage, but, according to the stats, Mel Gibson is far more likely to have a cowlick than Danny Glover. 

  • The Term Cowlick Has Existed for Hundreds of Years

    So why do we call the weird little wayward patch of hair on your head a cowlick? Well, when a mother cow licks her calves, her tongue creates a swirling pattern on their fur that resembles what happens in cowlicks on our own heads. The term dates back to the mid-1500s, and numerous variations of it exist in other languages, which compare the odd bit of hair to everything from an ear of corn to a vortex and a wick.