Best Cowbells

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

55 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
308 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cowbells

Last Updated December 2019

The cowbell, which dates back to the Iron Age, is a bell worn by pastured or free-roaming livestock to scare off predators and to keep tabs on grazing herds. Known as “cowbells” because they are most commonly worn by cattle, this type of bell is used on a broad variety of animals including horses, mules, goats, donkeys, sheep, and reindeer. Cowbells, consisting of a bell and clapper, are crafted from wood, brass, copper, tin, or iron. The collar that secures the cowbell in place is traditionally made from wood, hemp fibers, or leather.

The cowbell is also a popular hand percussion instrument used in many styles of classical and popular music. In fact, if you are shopping for a cowbell today, your purpose is likely a musical or noise-making one. Regardless of your reason for needing a cowbell, we can help you find one that ticks all the boxes.

Read on to discover more about the history, use, and collectibility of cowbells. When you are ready to make a purchase, check out our favorites.

The practice of hanging a bell around the necks of livestock to ward of predators dates back to the Middle Ages when the small, round bells with clappers were carved from wood or a shell and strung with a strip of cordage.

Key considerations

Cowbells carved from wood or fabricated from metal provide a surface that can be decorated or plain. The materials, quality of craftsmanship, and degree of embellishment varies by culture and geographic location. Some cultures believe that bells embellished with symbolism or religious reference act as a talisman to ward off danger or evil intent.

Some cowbells are crafted to produce specific tones or sounds used to identify characteristics of an animal. For example, in Spain, herd goats wear bells developed to differentiate between stud males, ewes, and pregnant or immature animals. That said, the cowbell is often used in Western culture as a musical instrument or noisemaker rather than a livestock marker.

The cowbell as a musical instrument

The cowbell is a musical instrument in the percussion family. As part of a drum set, it may be mounted or handheld. Notably, a cowbell is often not included with a drum set purchase. Rather, it’s an add-on you must purchase separately.

Some handheld clapperless cowbells use a mallet for striking the surface to produce a solid, sharp tone. Other cowbells contain a wooden or metal clapper and produce a high-pitched tone when shaken.

Throughout Latin America, three different sizes of cowbells — mambo, cencerro, or campana — play an integral role in the musical performances of festival and street dances. Musicians love the cowbell because of its unique ability to rise above amplified sounds.

The cowbell as a noisemaker

Cowbells of every size, shape, and color can serve as noisemakers for sporting and celebratory events. Many cowbells sold for this purpose are painted the colors of the buyer’s favorite sports team and embellished with the team’s logo. Handheld cowbells designed for this purpose emit a sharp, lively, high-pitched tone useful for directing the attention of a crowd and creating a cheering, happy noise.

Kids and cowbells

Children love cowbells, which are sometimes included in the elementary “band in a box” sets and often seen in elementary music classrooms. They make lots of noise, they’re fun to play, and they are virtually unbreakable. Because cowbells are handheld and available in many different sizes, they are perfect for little hands and a great way to introduce children to music.

Noah bells

Distinctive from other animal bells due to its melodic tones, the “Noah bell” is a rustic and beautiful type of livestock bell crafted for centuries in the monasteries of India. The Noah bell is also known as a temple bell or harmony bell. It’s a miniature cowbell that is typically crafted from pounded brass to produce a melodic, relaxing sound.

DID YOU KNOW?

Cowbells are popular noisemakers for weddings, sporting events, and political rallies.

Features

Cowbell sizes

Cowbells are available numerous sizes, from 1.5 inches tall to 11 inches tall. The size of a cowbell affects its sound output. As you might imagine, a larger cowbell creates a louder noise.

Construction

Cowbells are most commonly crafted from iron and finished with a plating of bronze. However, there are some made of copper or composition metal. Rather than forged or cast, these cowbells are cut from sheets of metal, folded, riveted, and shaped. Finished cowbells can be hand-carved, painted, or otherwise embellished.

Many modern cowbells are manufactured with a high-quality zinc alloy and plated with a chromed surface for corrosion resistance and to ensure maximum durability.

Cowbells used as musical instruments are made with a comfortable grip handle for ease of use.

DID YOU KNOW?

Because cowbells can damage the hearing of cattle and disrupt their eating patterns, cowbells are mainly worn by cattle for ceremonial and festive occasions featuring cows.

Accessories

Sound block: Latin Percussion Blast Block
Often played in accompaniment with cowbells, sound blocks are made from wood, metal, or plastic. They produce a loud blast of sound and are fun to play. This yellow sound block from Latin Percussion is a solid value.

Latin percussion bells: Latin Percussion Sambago Bells
When used in classical, Latin, or jazz music, other types of bells — including the Sambago bells by Latin Percussion featured here — are rung in harmony with cowbells and other percussion instruments.

Cowbell prices

The price of a cowbell depends on the country of origin, quality of materials, craftsmanship, brand, weight, and size of the cowbell.

Budget-friendly: Cowbells in this price range, made of inferior materials, are often sold in bulk for less than a dollar each. Although they are not rust-resistant and the sound quality is poor, these bells are effective noisemakers. Expect to pay $1 to $2 for a two-inch bell.

Mid-price range: In the middle price range, shoppers will find cowbells crafted from quality materials suitable for decorative use and merrymaking. Clapperless cowbells, intended for use as musical instruments, are available in this price range. These bells have a clear, deep, distinctive tone and are available in different sizes throughout the octave range. In the middle price range, expect to pay from $6 to $40 for a two-inch bell.

Expensive: In the expensive price range, consumers find bells of burnished copper, plated steel, and polished brass that offer a clarity and clearness of tone not found in lower-priced cowbells. Cowbells in this price range start at $40 for a two-inch cowbell. Collectors of cowbells note that hand-carved antique cowbells can sell for more than $150 each. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Cowbells can be utilized as percussion accompaniment in conjunction with a drum set.

Tips

  • When choosing cowbells for children, look for lightweight, quality bells without rough edges that could cut little hands.
  • Backpackers, hunters, hikers, and fishermen recommend hanging a couple of cowbells on your backpack or belt as you wander through the woods. Cowbells make quite a clamor, and the noise helps alert bears or other wildlife to your presence.

Other products we considered

When you want to clearly “hear” your cows or raise a clamor, this solid-cast, one-piece copper finished cowbell from Harbor Freight produces a loud, strident tone that carries afar. As a noisemaker, the sound of this handsome bell exceeds expectations.

If you want a cowbell with a clear, harmonious tone, this hammered steel cowbell from Meinl Percussion is a great choice. The cowbell sound is clear loud and resonant, and the price is reasonable.

The Jenigor bar dampens the effect on this Ridge Rider cowbell from Latin Percussion, producing a clear, loud sound that is somewhat higher in pitch than other cowbells of similar size. This musician-quality cowbell resists denting and would make a fine addition to any drummer’s percussion package.

The low, loud tone of a cowbell carries over long distances. These items are often used as musical instruments, noisemakers, and attention-getters at large events.

FAQ

Q. What is a bell cow?
A.
The term “bell cow” is the name given to the lead cow in a herd — the one who wears the largest, loudest cowbell.

Q. What is the origin of the cowbell?
A.
Cowbells were first used more than 15,000 years ago to help herdsmen locate wandering livestock. Although called a cowbell, these bells are used on many different types of livestock and domesticated cats. 

Q. Are cows hurt by heavy cowbells?
A.
Scientific studies conducted in Switzerland on the effect of cowbells on milk production discovered that cowbells can damage an animal’s hearing and that the noise and weight of the bell distracts cattle from their normal feeding patterns. Because of this revelation, cows, especially those in Switzerland, rarely wear cowbells except for ceremonial occasions.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Marlene
    Marlene
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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