Sanctity of the cows and bulls has been extensively described in ancient Indian literature. In fact in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद्) – 5.8.1, vedas are symbolized as a cow:


vācaṃ dhenum upāsīta |
tasyāś catvāraḥ stanāḥ |
svāhākāro vaṣaṭkāro hantakāraḥ svadhākāraḥ |
tasyai dvau stanau devā upajīvanti |
svāhākāraṃ ca vaṣaṭkāraṃ ca |
hantakāraṃ manuṣyāḥ |
svadhākāraṃ pitaraḥ |
tasyāḥ prāṇa ṛṣabho mano vatsaḥ ||

One should meditate upon speech (the Vedas) as a cow (as it were). She has four teats – the sounds “Svaha’, ‘Vasat’, ‘Hanta’ and ‘Svadha’. The gods live on two of her teats – the sounds ‘Svaha’ and ‘Vasat’, men on the sound ‘Hanta’, and the manes on the sound ‘Svadha’. Her bull is the vital force, and her calf the mind.

Cows and bulls have also been associated with various deities, notably Lord Krishna (a cowherd boy in his youth, also called Gopal - गोपाल - the protector of cows), Lord Shiva (who is carrying a bull - Nandi - नंदी) and goddesses in general due to maternal attributes of many of them.

Here are some of the famous vedic injunctions:

Rig Veda 4.1.6

अस्य शरेष्ठा सुभगस्य संद्र्ग देवस्य चित्रतमा मर्त्येषु |
शुचि घर्तं न तप्तम अघ्न्याया सपार्हा देवस्य मंहनेव धेनोः ||
asya śreṣṭhā subhaghasya saṃdṛgh devasya citratamā martyeṣu | 
śuci ghṛtaṃ na taptam aghnyāyā spārhā devasya maṃhaneva dhenoḥ ||

Excellent is the glance, of brightest splendor, which the auspicious God bestows on mortals. The God's glance, longed-for even as the butter, pure, heated, of the cow, the milk cow's bounty.


Rig Veda 6.28.5

गावो भगो गाव इन्द्रो मे अछान गावः सोमस्य परथमस्य भक्षः |
इमा या गावः स जनास इन्द्र इछामीद धर्दामनसा चिदिन्द्रम ||
ghāvo bhagho ghāva indro me achān ghāvaḥ somasya prathamasya bhakṣaḥ |
imā yā ghāvaḥ sa janāsa indra ichāmīd dhṛdāmanasā cidindram ||
To me the Cows seem Bhaga, they seem Indra, they seem a portion of the first-poured Soma. These present Cows, they, O ye Indra. I long for Indra with my heart and spirit.


Rig Veda 7.69.9

एष सय कारुर्जरते सूक्तैरग्रे बुधान उषसां सुमन्मा |
इषा तं वर्धदघ्न्या पयोभिर्यूयं पात ... ||
eṣa sya kārurjarate sūktairaghre budhāna uṣasāṃ sumanmā |
iṣā taṃ vardhadaghnyā payobhiryūyaṃ pāta ... ||
With his fair hymns this singer, too, extols you, waking with glad thoughts at the break of morning. May the cow nourish him with milk to feed llim. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.

In the AtharvaVeda (अथर्ववेद), cow is described as the mother of Adityas, daughter of Vasus, and the very soul of the people.

Atharva Veda 1.22.1

 Panchgavya produced by red cow is a miraculous remedy for treating heart and liver diseases.

Atharva Veda 9.10.5

hiṅkr̥ṇvatī́ vasupátnī vásūnāṃ vatsám ichántī mánasābhyā́gāt |
duhā́m aśvíbhyāṃ páyo aghnyéyáṃ sā́ vardhatāṃ mahaté sáubhagāya ||5||

She, Lady of all treasures, hath come hither, yearning in spirit for her calf, and lowing. May this Cow yield her milk for both the Asvins, and may she prosper to our high advantage.

Lord krishn and his Brother Balram getting Milk From Sacred Cows
Lord krishn and his Brother Balram getting Milk From Sacred Cows
The YajurVeda (यजुर्वेद) considers a cow as incomparable, meaning that she has unlimited qualities and virtues. There is no concept of eating a cow’s meat in the Vedas. In fact, the Holy Koran says that eating cow meat brings many kinds of illnesses and diseases.

In Mahabharat (Anusasanika parva), muni Vashitha said to king Soudasa that cow is sacred in the entire world and Lakshmi (लक्ष्मी - the goddess of wealth) stays where cows stay. Cleaning house with cow dung is advisable as cow dung and cow urine are sacred and has anti-microbial and excellent mosquito repellent property.

Also See:
 Holy Cow - Sacred Gow Matha
 The Man Who Used A Cow To Cure His Terminal Cancer
 Cows on the “Mooove” - videos from the recent translocation of some happy cows
 Vedic References of Sacred Cow - Gaumatha
 Why should drink cow’s milk?
 Indian Cow Breeds and Cows in Different Culture
 Lord's pet animals

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