Interesting What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?  

Laura Allan
30.1k views 13 items

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. 

The Term Cowlick Has Existed for Hundreds of Years

The Term Cowlick Has Existed f... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?
Photo:  PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

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. 

They're Also Called Hair Whorls

They're Also Called Hair W... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?
Photo: l e o j/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

Other terms for cowlick include "hair whorl" and "sworl." The reason for this is simple; a whorl is a swirled, circling pattern, which is exactly what a cowlick looks like. This swirling pattern happens because hair on different parts of the head grows in different directions, but must meet at some point. This point, also called a pivot, is the cowlick. 

They Develop in Utero

They Develop in Utero is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?
Photo:  Geffen Records

There's no point in getting upset at your cowlick, because there's nothing you can do about it. Whorling hair patterns form in utero, while babies gestate in the womb. This is true regardless of gender. If you've got a cowlick, you were born with it, and it isn't going away anytime soon (unless you lose your hair). 

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

Almost Everyone Has One, Even ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list What Are Cowlicks and Why Do We Have Them?
Photo:  Disney

Cowlicks are insanely 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 sworl. 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.