Exposure to animal livestock has been linked to zoonotic transmission, especially of gastrointestinal pathogens. Exposure to animals may contribute to chronic asymptomatic intestinal infection, environmental enteropathy and child under-nutrition in low-income settings. We conducted a cohort study to explore the effect of exposure to cows on growth and endemic diarrhoea in children aged <5 years in a rural, low-income setting in the Indian state of Odisha. The study enrolled 1992 households with 2739 children. Height measurements were available for 824 children. Exposure to cows was measured as (1) the presence of a cowshed within or outside the compound, (2) the number of cows owned by a household, and (3) the number of cowsheds located within 50 m of a household. In a sub-study of 518 households, fly traps were used to count the number of synanthropic flies that may act as vectors for gastrointestinal pathogens. We found no evidence that environmental exposure to cows contributes to growth deficiency in children in rural India, neither directly by affecting growth, nor indirectly by increasing the risk of diarrhoea. We found no strong evidence that the presence of a cowshed increased the number synanthropic flies in households.