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As a result of their history as a prey species there has been a strong evolutionary pressure on cattle to mask signs of pain and its implied weakness. Consequently, recognising the signs of pain in this stoical species represents a significant challenge for veterinarians and may partially explain why the use of analgesics in cattle has lagged behind that of small animals and horses.A questionnaire designed to assess the attitudes of respondents to pain and the use of analgesics in cattle was distributed to 12,764 practitioners in nine European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK) between 2004 and 2006. The questionnaire collected data on demographics, availability of and attitudes towards analgesics, treatment regimes, estimated pain severity for a range of conditions and procedures in adult cattle and calves (assuming no analgesic agents were used) and their levels of knowledge in the field. Questionnaires from 2716 practitioners were returned (21.3%). Respondents graduated from one of sixty one Schools between 1957 and 2006; 82% were male and 18% were female. Forty eight percent of respondents considered they had adequate knowledge in the area. The proportion of practitioners who stated they never used analgesic agents for a procedure or condition ranged from 1% for caesarean section to 41.3% for dystocia in adult cattle and from 2.9% for umbilical hernia surgery to 55.1% following dystocia in calves. Based on the median results, mastitis (with clots only) and neck calluses were considered the least painful and claw amputation the most painful procedure or condition of adult cattle. Similarly the pain associated with dystocia was considered the least painful and surgical castration, burdizzo castration, distal limb fracture and umbilical hernia surgery the most painful procedure or condition of calves. The results generated from this study suggest that there are currently two principal factors hindering the use of analgesics in cattle: the limited number of analgesics (particularly local anaesthetics) licensed for use in food animal species in Europe and the belief amongst many practitioners that they have an adequate knowledge of pain management despite the fact that their use of analgesics in cattle is often limited. The authors would like to respectfully acknowledge the input of our late colleague Professor Ove Svendson of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark.