Best cowbell

Collars, Leashes, and Harnesses

Despite their name, cowbells aren’t just used on cattle. Traditionally, they’ve also been worn by goats and sheep to help identify the herd to which the roaming animals belonged.

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WHICH COWBELL IS BEST?

Whether you’re looking for a new percussion instrument or to keep track of your cattle, you’ve got lots of options for a good old-fashioned cowbell. Dating back to the Iron Age, bells were worn around the necks of grazing livestock to ward off predators and to keep their owners aware of their whereabouts.

Most cowbells today are still made from traditional materials like wood, copper, brass, tin or iron for an authentic look and sound. Learn more about the modern uses of cowbells in this buying guide. Our top pick is the Latin Percussion Mambo Cowbell, which works well for a range of musical genres.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A COWBELL

Due to technological advances for tracking herds such as GPS, ranchers generally no longer use cowbells. In fact, cowbells can damage the hearing of livestock as well as disrupt their eating habits. This is why cowbells may only be seen these days on cattle at ceremonial or festive events. Cowbells today are mostly purchased for the following uses:

Musical instrument

As a musical instrument, cowbells fall into the percussion family. They may be handheld or mounted to a drum set. Some are clapperless, which means they must be struck with a mallet or drumstick and produce a sharp, solid tone. Cowbells with wood or metal clappers are shaken to produce higher tones.

Cowbells used in Latin American music come in three sizes: mambo, cencerro and campana. When played in festivals or street performances, these cowbells can rise above the noise.

Noisemaker

Popular for sporting events, handheld cowbells are shaken in celebratory moments or along with cheers and chants. They produce a lively, high-pitched tone and are often painted in a sports team’s colors or with their logo. Other uses for these noisemakers are at political rallies or weddings. 

For kids 

In elementary school classrooms, cowbells serve as an introduction to music because of their durability (they’re virtually impossible to break) and simplicity of use. Smaller cowbells can be grasped and shaken by little hands. Some adults may even use cowbells to call children to attention — or home for dinner — because their low, loud sound travels above the din and across distances.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY COWBELL

Size

Cowbells come in a variety of sizes, from 1.5 inches tall to 11 inches tall. The larger the cowbell, the louder the volume of noise output.

Materials

The bell component of a cowbell is classically constructed from iron, which may be plated with bronze. Iron cowbells are either forged or cast and are the heaviest material. Bells made of copper or composition metal (like steel) are cut from sheets of metal, then folded, riveted, and shaped. Zinc alloy cowbells are also available and feature a chromed surface that’s corrosion-resistant.

Clapper vs. clapperless

Bells that include a clapper are handheld and often used as a noisemaker or to track livestock. Clapperless cowbells can come with a wooden mallet and are used as musical instruments. Striking different parts of a clapperless cowbell creates different tones.

HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON A COWBELL

Cowbells range in price from $1-$40 each. Collector antique cowbells can cost upward of $150.

COWBELLS FAQ

What are some other uses for cowbells?

A. Backpackers, hikers, hunters, and people who fish in the wilderness sometimes wear cowbells when walking through the woods to ward off bears and other predatory animals. Smaller cowbells can easily attach to one’s belt or backpack for this noisemaking purpose.

What should I look for in a cowbell when buying one for my child?

A. Select a cowbell that’s made from a lightweight metal (iron, for instance, may be too heavy for little ones to lift). Check the product for rough edges that could potentially pierce the skin.

WHAT COWBELLS ARE BEST TO BUY?

Top cowbell

Latin Percussion’s Mambo Cowbell

Latin Percussion’s Mambo Cowbell

Our take: This steel mambo cowbell is designed for Latin-style music making.

What we like: It offers handmade, precise construction. It produces a deep, dry tone. and works for a range of musical genres, not just Cuban music. The steel material is consistent in thickness.

What you should consider: It is on the higher end of the price spectrum.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top cowbell for the money

Stagg’s 6.5-Inch Rock Cowbell

Stagg’s 6.5-Inch Rock Cowbell

Our take: This affordable, mountable cowbell for drummers comes from a reputable brand.

What we like: It comes in six sizes. Its low “clunking” tone is good for heavier music, like rock. It includes dampening pads. This one is well-made and a good value for the price.

What you should consider: The dampening pads don’t do much and may require more muting strips.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Worth checking out

wmm’s 10-Inch Steel Cowbell with Handle

wmm’s 10-Inch Steel Cowbell with Handle

Our take: This extra-loud and low cowbell is made for serious noisemaking uses.

What we like: Its long handle features a comfortable, rubberized grip. Its sturdy steel construction has an attractive copper finish. The hanger loop allows for livestock use.

What you should consider: It’s on the heavy side, but that’s to be expected with a cowbell this large.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

 

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Ana Sanchez writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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