I don’t often write specifically about cows. Although, when I do encounter them on a walk, they will usually receive a mention in one of my posts.
Here’s a question for everyone reading this…
Have you been chased or intimidated by a herd of cattle?
Perhaps even a single cow?
If you have a short story to share, please leave it in the comments section below.
I can only think of two occasions where I’ve had a bull make a move towards me.
It was possibly four years ago when I first climbed Nyland Hill and continued my walk around the Somerset Levels of Rodney Stoke. One field gate I passed was marked with the usual ‘bull in field’ sign. But the cows were far across in the opposite corner.
As soon as I set foot in to their field, an individual from the herd began to run across the field towards me. It would probably have taken twenty seconds to complete the journey (and possibly butt me back up, over and on to the road) but, in any case, I didn’t hang around; jogging back to the gate, scrambling over and opting for a alternative and likely safer route.
From the moment I’d crossed back over the gate, the bull had dropped its pace, although he still showed an interest in taking a close look at me. Behind him now, the greater herd of brown cows (I always forget the breeds) were slowly following as well.
My second incident was perhaps only last year, when coming to the end of a walk that started to the south of Chew Valley Lake in North East Somerset.
I had to cross a field less than one hundred metres wide. Both the path and its access points were clear and I’d clocked a small herd of cattle lying on the ground and away to the left-hand corner. I crossed three-quarters of this field without having ‘raised the alarm’ and, suddenly, one of them leapt up to me and began to run, with its head down!
I was so close to the gate, it was almost ridiculous. Without even thinking, I turned around, threw my arms up high and shouted something at it… To which it would slow down and allow me to passing through the kissing gate without being forced.
You could argue that it wasn’t much of a bull charging. But my point is that I encounter fields of cattle on the majority of my walks and I very rarely come to any difficulty. At worst, they tend to surround me and unknowingly block my way forward. Many cows are just curious. have poor eyesight and, depending on the time of day, they may think you’re the friendly farmer who’s come to feed them.
They’re not always out for blood, despite what you may read. Although it is well known that dog walkers are often at a greater risk.
As with sheep, I also find they can be particularly curious in the spring time, shortly after they’ve been released from their slumber.
This may be a controversial issue… But I do feel that generally, too much is being made of ‘what can go wrong’ in a situation where a public right of way crosses a field of cattle. As I’ve said; the strong majority of my own experiences have been very positive and I’m still alive enough to be able to talk about the two occasions where things didn’t bode so well.
I believe we’re collectively in danger of sending a message that says:
Never enter a field with even a single cow
When what I feel we should be doing is offering advice and encouragement on how to approach such a situation. For example – and this is something I’ve discussed with two people recently – have an escape plan in mind. Which usually involves hugging a field boundary and looking for an emergency exit, should the need arise. At least that gets people in to the situation, from which I hope they can gradually learn that not all cows are out to kill us.
4 thoughts on “Do You Fear Cattle?”
I’d say I’m wary/aware of cattle, and have had a few interactions that could have gone badly. Like you say, it’s not really because they’re out to get us, it’s because they’re very curious… but when you have 20-30 young Hereford steers running up to you to get a good look, it only takes one of them to accidentally knock you down in a confined space (e.g. paddock corner) and the ones pressing from behind could get you trampled! In that particular instance, I was able to run around one side of a loose hedgeline, then cut back through just before the kissing gate and get out of the field (they’re not exactly the smartest cookies). So I agree, be aware of your surroundings, have an escape plan, and more than 9 times out of 10 they will just stare at you for a bit then go back to eating grass or chewing the cud.
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That’s a good point on how clumsy they are and because of their size. If a flock of sheep behaves in the same manner, there’s less of a risk. Sounds like you had a close escape though.
It would be a good idea to warn people never to enter a field where cows have calves, especially if you have a dog (which should be on a lead where there are farm animals or where they could chase wildlife). If you are in a situation where a herd is running towards you, let go of the dog lead, stay calm and make your way out of the field while hopefully the cattle will follow the dog, which can get away under a fence easily. Running away when a frisky herd gets very near not a good idea, as they can run faster and it’s better to stand and shout, holding out your walking poles, then edge backwards. A group of steers just let out in the Spring can get very excited and curious and their sheer numbers and weight could be dangerous. Nowadays, cattle are not so used to human interaction as they were in the past, when herds were small and hand-milked. Another problem is if you go into a large field which is an odd shape, not seeing any animals, and then suddenly around a corner you see a snorting bull who decides you are a threat to his cows. This happened to me once, and the Charolais bull was lying down about 30 yards away with his cows. Seeing me, he stood up, snorted and was pawing the ground, started coming towards me and I had to slowly walk backwards till I could scramble over a fence. There was no warning on the footpath entrance. I believe Charolais bulls can be unpredictable and aggressive. Discretion is the better part of valour and I prefer to take a long detour, especially when alone, rather than possibly fall over and get trampled. Even if the animals don’t mean any harm, they can injure you through just being suspicious of you, inquisitive, or boisterous and frisky. No fun falling face down in a cowpat with a herd walking over you!
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I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had an intimidating experience with a bull. I am noticing more signs warning of ‘bull in field’ or ‘cows with calves’. Many of which are made by the farmer and quite crude. I have only seen one (and it’s quite local to me) where they advise you to NOT enter the field if you have a dog… I suppose there lies an argument that this is depriving people of the chance to follow a public right of way.
I had a slight incident yesterday with cattle running about as the farmer drove across the other side of the field. It would’ve been frightening for someone less experienced. But I also had a line of trees to follow and keep us mostly separated.
I’m all for taking a wide detour where available. It’s not unlike walking around an overgrown field.
Thanks for your comment.