Take care around cows: warning for walkers

Posted by Cath Flitcroft and Tina Gardner on 07/03/2016

Each year there are reports of people who have been attacked, or even trampled to death, by cows whilst out walking or approaching crags. BMC member Simon Coldrick was badly injured after a cow attacked him as he led a fell race on the edge of Sheffield.

Simon, an accomplished climber, runner and cyclist from Chinley, Derbyshire, was taking part in the fell race when he was attacked by a cow in a field near the top of the Limb Valley, near Ringinglow.

He was crossing the field, which had around 20 cows in it, when he was rushed by a herd of cattle, thrown in the air by a cow and trampled. Other runners and race marshalls helped at the scene until paramedics arrived. Simon, who had fractured eight ribs, his shoulder and a bone on his spine, was taken to hospital where he had surgery to strengthen his rib cage with metal plates.


Photo: with permission from Simon Coldrick

Simon said: "I didn't know whether to go around the cows or go through the middle. There wasn't much space around the outside and I didn't want to get trapped between the cows and the wall so I carried on along the track in the middle of the field and hoped they would shift on a bit. As it was a race I had a slightly different head on than if I had been walking or running on my own.  

"I think that a combination of things freaked out the cows. It was thundery weather, there were calves in the field and it was evening when apparently cows can go a bit berserk. At the hospital they even remarked that it was cow trampling season. I was lucky really and hope something good can come out of this by making people more aware of the dangers."

Apparently the field is used regularly by fell runners and the race organisers have not heard of any previous incidents in 20 years of holding the race. However, they are now re-thinking the route and the Fell Runners Association will be discussing the issue. 

Recent incidents

Last week, a 62 year old man from Cornwall reportedly died after he, his wife and two dogs were caught in a stampede of cattle near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.  Later the same day in a nearby field another man was injured in an attack but said the cows ignored his dogs and came straight at him.  The Health and Safety Executive is working with the owner of the cattle to help prevent similar incidents. The owner has urged walkers to give cattle "a wide berth". Read the full article in the Derbyshire Telegraph.
 

Make sure this doesn't happen to you

Most members of the public are wary of bulls, but fewer realise that cows, particularly those protecting newly-born calves, can also be dangerous. While such attacks are relatively rare, nationwide there have been 12 people killed in  the last six years.
 

Cow attacks and dogs

The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it’s every owner’s duty to make sure their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.  In some reported cases, the cows are thought to have been trying to drive off the dogs in order to protect their young.  

By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals, therefore dog walkers should keep their dogs on their lead at any time of the year when near farm animals, particularly during lambing times. However, it’s really important to be aware that there will circumstances when this could prove to be the wrong advice.
 

So what should you do? Keep calm and carry on?

If you find yourself in a field of suddenly wary cattle, move away as carefully and quietly as possible, and if you feel threatened by cattle then let go of your dog’s lead and let it run free rather than try to protect it and endanger yourself. The dog will outrun the cows and it will also outrun you.

Those without canine companions should follow similar advice: move away calmly, do not panic and make no sudden noises. Chances are the cows will leave you alone once they establish that you pose no threat.

If you walk through a field of cows and there happen to be calves, think twice; if you can, go another way and avoid crossing fields.
 

Bulls and Public Rights of Way

It is an offence to allow a bull over 10 months old and on its own to be at large in a field crossed by a public right of way. It is also an offence to keep a bull of a recognised dairy breed (even if accompanied by cows/heifers) on land crossed by a public right of way.

The exceptions are bulls not more than 10 months old, or bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed (currently defined as Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry) and are accompanied by cows and heifers. In practice, it may be difficult for a user to know whether bulls will be likely to be dangerous or not, and farmers should, wherever possible, not keep bulls in fields crossed by rights of way.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that signs should be displayed at each access point, noting that a bull is in the field. The above advice applies to those walking through a field which contains a bull.
 

The Countryside Code

The Countryside Code states that:

  • By law, you must keep your dog under effective control so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as 'access land' you must keep your dog on a short lead on most areas of open country and common land between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals.
     
  • You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
     
  • If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
     
  • Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
     
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections – so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
     
  • At certain times, dogs may not be allowed on some areas of access land or may need to be kept on a lead. Please follow any signs.
     

Find out more

 


The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

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1) Anonymous User
25/05/2012
I got attacked by a Cow 3 years ago, on a regularly used footpath in The Peak District. It headbutted me to the ground, then continued to kick and stamp on me. If my husband hadn't kept kicking it in the head I don;t think I would have survived the attack. As it was I sustained several broken ribs and shoulder blade. Yes there were calves in the field but I didn't have a dog. I don't know why it decided I was a threat and I have walked through this field many many times without incident. Apparently it attacked two other people the same day. The farmer removed it from the field, but it was a very scary moment and has left me very cautious and nervous when walking through fields with any cattle in.
2) Anonymous User
14/06/2012
Steve G
Turned a corner in an L shaped field, SUDDENLY faced with about 8 or 10 cows with calfs!! My wife and I had our (V well behaved) dog with us. Cows etc moved out then back in behind us. I walked backwards waving walking poles outstretched. They held back, then charged around me towards my wife (5-10 yds) further down field. Told dog to go..who needed no second command, couldn't get under/ over gate or wall so got cornered, About 2 mins (2 hrs?) of dog being tried to be head-butted/trampled.. dog 'broke free' and ran.... again was chased as we made for the gate (200yds away). Opened gate and called dog who circled and got back to us (unharmed but shaken). Cattle still at gate 5 MINUTES LATER making noises. Did wonder if gate would hold!! ...it did :-)
Scarey times. NO WARNING SIGNS OF ANY KIND POSTED ANYWHERE!
Am looking at how to report (Police or HSE?).
This was UP from Craven Arms, Appletreewick Yorshire (google maps).
3) Anonymous User
13/08/2012
I was chased by a herd of cows whenwalking through a feild in englefeild green it was a well known walking route and lead onto a forest i was moving slowly as realised by the cows reaction to me especially one particular much bigger cow i stood still i toke literally one step forward and charge and some other cows followed it at first they seemed miles away soon they moved till meters away from me they move impressively fast I had literally frozen even my legs were shaking with fear all the gfences were heavily barred wired and i was scared of cutting myself on them if i jumped over finally in literally before i could of been trampled i had a brain surge so i took of my jumper put it on the barred wire i fell ungracefully to the ground i had a few cuts bruises but luckily nothing serious i spent the next hour hysterrically crying i have never been so terrified by an animal before in my life.
4) Anonymous User
23/07/2013
Also chased by cattle crossing a field on a public bridleway on Dartmoor. No dog. Cattle tried to surround and follow then charged. Stood my ground waved arms in the air and they stopped about 5 meters short of me.
If my arms went down they moved forward. I was able to back away slowly always waving arms until I reached a distance where they lost sight or interest. Slowly worked along a hedge to a gate to escape the field.
I feel certain if I would have ran or continued to walk away I would have been trampled. There needs to be some control and we must stop implying this only occurs if persons are with dogs or young.
5) Anonymous User
12/09/2013
I went on a walk today alone through a public walkway and entered one field with cows, I moved slowly and was fine, entered another field with yet more cows & thought as before I'd be okay esp as some walkers past me so had ovb come that way and been okay.
The cows were on the other side so I slowly made my way across and then noticed the cows were heading towards me, around 15 or so & I panicked so tried walking a tad faster and suddenly they started running to me & I have to admit I was scared (no calves that I could see) I stopped and faced them and put my arms out and stupidly chatted to them but it worked & they stopped but as I moved away again they followed me into another field and started mking noises think they were getting annoyed and 3 were right behind me bt luckily I climbed a gage and got out! Very scared and not what I expected from a public walkway!
6) Anonymous User
05/11/2013
Walked through a field of cows today, shortly before dusk (1630). The path is part of the Monarch's Way, and this field is just south of Ilchester in Somerset. Before I entered the field the cows (about 40-50) had come up to the bridge I was using to enter the field. They looked quite menacing, but according to my map there wasn't another obvious way to get where I wanted to go, and there are several streams about, requiring bridges to cross. I decided to go through the cows but it was way scary. First of all I went to the right of them, through the middle of the field, aiming for a bridge on the other side. After I got past them they began to move and make bad noises. Then they ran around me, and away. I thought that was the end of it, but I then stupidly walked between the herd and what looked like an older calf which had not joined the rest of them in approaching me the first time. When I was directly between the herd and the young lone adult (yearling?), they began to charge me again. My solution was to appear threatening towards them, turning to face them, lifting my arms, stepping towards them and shouting a little bit. This spooked them enough to turn away, but they kept coming until I got to the other bridge. After that they ran away.

I learnt to do this, and not be afraid of charging cattle when we had a barbecue on Leaze's Moor in Newcastle. The cows there charged us, but my friend who grew up in the Cumbrian countryside knew to charge them back, as I did. It seems to work, but it's well scary. Who needs rollercoasters and bungee-jumping for an adrenalin rush? Just go for a walk through a cow field.
7) Anonymous User
21/04/2014
Just got chased by 7 cows! Was out jogging across a couple of fields near my house, have done so many times before and never had any problems, I always give the cows a wide berth. This time they actually followed behind me as I jogged, I thought they were just being curious. As I reached the starting point and turned to do a second lap, the cows basically tried to surround me and cut me off. I attempted to bypass them but then they charged - literally got chased all the way across two large fields, running as fast as I could! They never let up, managed to finally escape the fields by hopping a fence. The cows arrived shortly behind me and then just stood there at the fence. Waiting....and watching... Never thought a 'moo' could sound so sinister. I wanna go get a Big Mac or something as a means of revenge.
8) Anonymous User
21/04/2014
Just got chased by 7 cows! Was out jogging across a couple of fields near my house, have done so many times before and never had any problems, I always give the cows a wide berth. This time they actually followed behind me as I jogged, I thought they were just being curious. As I reached the starting point and turned to do a second lap, the cows basically tried to surround me and cut me off. I attempted to bypass them but then they charged - literally got chased all the way across two large fields, running as fast as I could! They never let up, managed to finally escape the fields by hopping a fence. The cows arrived shortly behind me and then just stood there at the fence. Waiting....and watching... Never thought a 'moo' could sound so sinister. I wanna go get a Big Mac or something as a means of revenge.
9) Anonymous User
05/05/2014
We had to cross a field with a herd of 'teenage' cows in. As we approached the field, all the cows ran up to the stile we were heading for, away from us. We knew we needed to go to the bottom of the next field so we took a chance and walked down, diagonally towards that field, hoping to get through a gate at the bottom. We always use footpaths but this wasn't possible as the cows were very lively. As we got halfway down the field, the cows turned and ran towards us (we didn't have a dog or give them any reason to run at us). We were really frightened. The four of us stood as one and held our sticks up and shouted to stay back. We eventually held them back enough to enable us to clamber over another gate, (after one of our party got a belt from the electrified wire on the gate we were aiming for!)
We noticed that the reason the cows ran up to the stile initially, was that a couple were in the process of getting over it. We were extremely lucky to escape without injury although I cut my hand badly on some barbed wire. The field next to this one (which we needed) was also full of 'teenage' cows and there was absolutely no way we could cross that one either. After navigating a large stream and scrambling up a steep bank, we got to safety. We passed an elderly couple who were intending to cross both the previous fields but we managed to warn them of the danger. As we talked to them, we could see the cows running round skittishly and there was no way anyone who had any sense would tackle them. (The footpath ran through both these fields, we've done that walk many times but never encountered such lively animals). These footpaths were near Whatstandwell, Derbys.
10) Anonymous User
01/06/2014
Was out running along a public footpath in Oxfordshire a few years ago when I was stampeded by a herd of around 20 cows. I grew up with close family members owning farms so didn't think anything of going through the field. As soon as as I saw the cows (no calves in sight) I started walking and kept to the edge of the field. One cow came over which I ignored and it turned away and rejoined the herd.. Then they all turned and charged at me. I went for the run like hell tactic and was only by sheer luck I managed to vault a gate before they reached me as I am quite certain I would not be writing this now. Even when I reached the next field the cows were still on their hind legs trying to get over the fence. Unluckily the next field also contained cows who, again, we're up on their back legs stopping me getting over the gate so ended up stuck between fields in a field surrounded by hawthorn. Not an experience I ever wish to repeat. I now live on Skye where cows and bulls roam freely. As I now have an irrational (to others) fear I am really struggling to find safe running routes at this time of year. Have to get my husband to go out in the car to do a 'cow check' to make sure the route is clear. People should be warned of the dangers. I was one of the lucky ones.
11) Anonymous User
02/06/2014
While walking I had never been frightened of cows, positively walking through the field ignoring the cows. Guess I have been lucky! Its been more since I have been walking with my partner and she is absolutely terrified of them, her fear has transferred to myself. In most cases we have had to use the footpath to get to where we needed to go but we usually end up running and crawling under fences to get passed them. As of late I have been taking a different stance, when they all start gathering round to have a look at us I charge at them swinging my rucksack at them. They all then stampede off to the opposite side of the field, but by the time we get to the other side they then usually get the confidence to make there way back to have another look at us! Think the trick is to be domineering if they get too close to you!
12) Anonymous User
09/06/2014
There is a lot in this and similar discussions about the responsibility of the public and dog owners in particular to behave responsibly, but much less on the responsibility of farmers to do likewise. As I understand it, a public right of way is exactly that. If farmers place cattle in a field were the public have a right of access then what precautions or responsibilities do farmers have to ensure that the public are safe. I would have thought some low voltage electric fencing would be a reasonable thing to expect.
13) Anonymous User
09/06/2014
Cows in fields with public paths across are increasingly common. According to a vet friend holsteins are dangerous under any circumstance (effectively mad due to intensive inbreeding). I don't care about dogs but there must be more effective legislation to protect people from animals. I wonder sometimes if farmers put their stock on fields with public paths in order to discourage walkers.
14) Anonymous User
09/06/2014
I am personally getting fed up of my trail runs in the local countryside turning into a battle of wills with fields of aggressive cattle - I swear the problem is getting worse. I don't have a dog and am always on my own but whether the cows have calves or not I still often get charged at, even if only walking ( I tend to walk into fields now as opposed to running in the hope it may not aggravate them ). Recently I was on the South Downs Way where there was a field of exceptionally aggressive cattle. It was a very busy Sunday with lots of people out - most of who had to end up running for their lives. Interestingly, the cows were even fighting each other, snorting and running head butts! Maybe the rules regarding cattle and rights of way need reviewing?
15) Anonymous User
09/06/2014
Cattle are very curious beasts and can easily appear threatening, especially the younger ones who enjoy charging around. If you run that just encourages them to continue charging. Stand facing them and raise your arms high above your head and usually they stop suddenly as one. They often gather around me when I sit sketching - sitting down isn't a threat to them, but not the best option if they are already charging! But keep away from calves.
16) Anonymous User
10/06/2014
Or you could go back the way you came.....
17) Anonymous User
12/06/2014
Somebody running AT a heard of cattle with calves shouldn't be surprised if the cows think they are being attacked and therefore defend their calves. A litttle common sense should be applied. Don't think that cattle will think you are a fell runner. Their instincts will say you are a wolf about to take one of the claves.
18) Anonymous User
12/06/2014
I used to work on cattle stations in Australia, so cows really didn't freak me until walking through a large field near Hadrian's Wall where my partner and I (with well behaved dog) were charged. I held them off with whooping and loud noises before the charge got too bad, but it was terrifying. I understand that modern AI breeding techniques are making aggressive tendencies worse in cattle as there is no farm selection (eg farms only keeping non-aggressive bulls) going on. Also farmers use quad bikes more, so cows are more on edge, less relaxed around people. I know that in Aus using horses & people to herd rather than motor bikes and helicopters results in much less stressed cattle, but I don't know the UK answer. I don't want to see all the footpaths being fenced off. That would be rubbish.
19) Anonymous User
13/08/2014
my great grandma once punched a cow to death
20) Anonymous User
09/11/2015
As a regular walker in a Derbyshire village near Calver and Froggat, many of the walkers there are sick and tired of having to double back on our river walk because of the cows. One lady ended up in the river after being butted in by one particular cow. There is a river that runs alongside the walk, so the farmer would say he needs the water... but not every farm has access like this so its no excuse for not thinking of public safety. There is also a very large bull, and no notices at all warning people. I have e mailed the enviromental people today, lets see if they take any notice before someone is seriously injured! Oh I did let Peak Park know, not a word back thanks alot!!!!!
21) Anonymous User
09/03/2016
I have been charged several times. It continually spoils our walks as my wife will not cross afield with cow's blocking the way.
The path is a public right of way. If the farmer will not protect the public then in my opinion we have the right to make an alternative safe passage across the land. If this means climbing walls or going through other fields then I'm sorry but if the farmer doesn't want this then they should run a fence around the edge of the field .i.e divert the path to keep the public safe.
Some farmers do this and it alleviates the problem. It should be enforceable by law.
22) Anonymous User
04/04/2016
I have been chased --last summer and 2 years ago---a very scary experience indeed---once in the West Mendip Way near Priddy in Somerset and another time on the England Coastal Path--'The River Parrett trail'--------I was never worried in the past and would always walk thru cows but never again---I have to do some beautiful walks in the winter months when the cows are tucked up in their barns---I had 2 narrow escapes--extremely scary
23) Anonymous User
15/04/2016
I was walking my greyhound on a lead threw a field with cows but no calf's in Studley Warwickshire. .
And all off a sudden from no where these cows charged and me and the dog ..
I dropped the lead thinking they wanted my dog
Being a ex racedog they stood little chance and I jumped into the large stream where I had been walking .. They left me alone and carried on going for the dog
I think the dog was seen as a threat to them ..
Well my greyhound thought the race was on needless to say the cows Couldt keep up ..
And barney my dog soon joined me ..
I recommend not walking dogs in a field where they have just had calf's .. mothers instinct to protect
Normally cows are quiet calm animals
Always stay at the edge of a field so if they do charge you can jump out the way ..don't walk in between them ..

Give me a horse any day I trust them more than cows
24) Anonymous
19/04/2016
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
25) Anonymous User
08/07/2016
I live in Country Durham, East Durham to be precise where my village is surrounded by farmland. An ideal place to walk a dog. That's exactly what I was doing at the time, many years ago when my dog and I climbed over one stile to continue walking on the public right of way which continued along the edge of that particular field. As we walked to the other stile I did see cattle in the field as I had done many times before. They were at the furthest reaches of that large field but as soon as they saw me they began walking toward us and when they saw (or smelled) my dog they began galloping! That was the moment I slipped the leash off my dog and the cattle forgot all about me and started chasing after her. They stood no chance of getting anywhere near her as she was a very fit and healthy German Shepherd who easily dodged them.
After climbing over the other stile to safety, I immediately called for her and she easily cleared the stile with a single jump. My dog was far calmer than I was after the incident.
When I told the farmer sometime later about what had happened he just laughed and told me to stay the f... away from his cattle or he would shoot my dog. As this particular landowner used to be a Justice of the Peace until he retired, it would be a pointless exercise reporting any incident involving him, his family, or any of his farming practices to the police and/or local authority.
Nowadays I have to use my mobility scooter to walk my present dog which I do so along the network of local bridleways. There are many horse riders out and about, especially during the finer weather. A few times after stopping and taking hold of my dog's collar to wait for a rider to pass, I have had on occasion, horses rear up at me which can be very frightening. I'm told by the rider it's because their horse is frightened of my scooter, not my dog.
However, I still say the incident involving the cattle all those years ago was far worse!
26) Anonymous User
24/07/2016
Went for my first 'proper' walk on the north worcestershire path today and got surrounded by a herd of cows, I hadn't a clue what to do so ran and just about got over a fence. It seems like a common problem that's getting worse judging by the comments here.

Maybe the best solution we can all make as individuals is to go vegan?
27) Anonymous User
02/09/2016
Walking on the Worcestershire Way with my very well behaved border collie, a path that I have been walking for 6 years I have never been so frightened. I have lived in the countryside for a long time and have always been very wary of cows. They are, by nature, very inquisitive creatures. I got over the stile and immediately put my dog on his lead, as the old weathered sign instructs me. The field usually holds no more than 6 large Aberdeen Angus looking cows, which are very docile. I commenced walking parallel to the hedge and became aware that there were cows in the adjacent field. Although I could not see them I knew they were following us. Not concerned too much I continued my walk across the field. When I got halfway down where the hedge stops I nearly died. About 20 very young cows ran out in front of us and then came to an abrupt halt, each one focussed on us. My heart, which was now in my throat, nearly stopped and I thought, "Oh Christ what the hell is going to happen now". I had no choice but to try and negotiate my way towards them. They started to move to my side then I realised that coming up the rear of the cows was a very young, very fiesty bull which was now stood firmly grounded, front hoof digging at the soil, head dipping and rising. I can honestly say I was petrified. He wouldn't move for it seemed like ages. I had to keep walking, because to turn round would mean I would have twice the distance to get back to the stile. I just kept praying that my dog would remain calm and quiet and God bless him, he did. Although I could see the next gate it seemed miles away but I continued to walk towards the bull and he did start moving following on behind the cows. Once they had dispersed to my right I was then fully aware that they were all behind me, which put us in a very vulnerable position. My pace did quicken, very slightly, and the cows, lead by the bull, started following us, which I knew they would. Although it is very difficult to go against the overwhelming urge to run, I didn't. However, the herd was gaining on us, very quickly and every time I turned around they were getting closer and closer and faster and faster. I don't know what made me do it but I just must have gone into survival mode. I turned completely around, waved my stick in the air made a sshhh, sshhh sound and ran towards the herd. The cows freaked and trotted away but the bull stood his ground, he kept dipping his head and starting bucking, so I went towards him again. Then to my amazement he turned around and started following the cows. I continued to walk, a bit quicker this time, towards the gate, looking back to check. Once safe I stood and wondered how the hell I had got out alive. I was absolutely petrified. My advice. Don't ever run away, go towards them, wave your arms and make a sound. This herd was not provoked and my dog behaved impeccably. There was no sign saying 'Bull in field' NB not all farmers abide by the law!
28) Anonymous User
23/09/2016
taking a walk along a main road adjacent to a coastal path behind a hedge to the left of me. The reason I'm on the road and not on the path is because the two attempts to get on the path would have meant entering fields with cows in. Avoiding going into the 2nd field was one of the best decisions I had ever made. While walking parallel to the filed one of the Black Aberdeen Angus cows had clearly taken a shine to me. It was stood perfectly still as close against the fence as it could get, this was seriously freaking me out as I already have a unexplainable fear of cows. I picked up my pace and kept turning my head to keep an eye on this cow. To my horror it started running to catch up level with me; I can honestly say it was one of my most scariest moments ever. I've seen video footage of how bulls can jump our of the bull ring, and this is what I thought was going to happen; the cow was going to jump the fence and attack. I had no where to go due to a 8-9 foot thick hedge to the right of me, I was to afraid to start running just in case this rattled it more, so I just continued with my increased walking pace and prayed for the field to come to an end. I couldn't stop thinking "what if I had gone on the path in the field"? Well I probably wouldn't be sharing this tale with you. My already fear has now increased 100 fold and I'm cross that it will now interfere with the other walks I do :(
29) Anonymous User
08/10/2016
As long as the farmers are acting within the law (signs, bulls in correct fields), I think it's whoever runs the public rights of way that needs to reassess. I see many commenters talking about national walking paths such as the Pennine Way and St. Cuthbert's Way. They're promoted as well-travelled routes that you can commit a day or successive days to. You're relying on following the route to get back to your car, public transport or place to stay overnight. Having your route blocked can lead to a diversion that's dangerous for other reasons (busy road, steep, much longer and running out of water or fading light), and at best means you're not always able to visit the places you wanted to. Shaftoe Crags in Northumberland are dramatic rock formations that are promoted as a visitor attraction, but my husband and I were unable to reach the largest rocks because cows with calves blocked the public footpath, so we edged around the field. Our most recent walk should have taken us to some caves with prehistoric drawings (again, promoted to the public) but a field contained a bull (at least this was signposted) and a narrow footpath with gates at either end suddenly had a cow (or bull - didn't stick around to check) blocking the path. We had no choice but to turn back and do a diversion on a road, which thankfully had a path at the side. It added an hour to our walk and at least we had a car to get home - missing a bus in a rural area could mean waiting hours (or until the next day) for the next one. That was a minor inconvenience - on a longer walk it could really mess up your plans. Another walk gave us a choice of edging around a field and having 1 mile left, or diverting by at least 3 miles and going on a busy road (or going back the previous 7 miles). You absolutely have to act sensibly and prepare when setting off on a walk, but I don't think it's reasonable to promote public access when that access can be abruptly cut off. We're going to stick to disused railway lines, Woodland Trust woods, and quiet country roads from now on. I'm sure many others make the same decision, which is going to impact on the businesses that rely on walkers using national routes.
30) Anonymous User
23/10/2016
Struth! Anyone reading this will surely wonder whether walking in the country is safe at all. I've had one scary incident, but not as bad as some people here have had. Even so, it made me wary of cattle from that day on, more than 15 years ago. I can only take my hat off to those who managed to stand their ground and not run... that, I fear is my own 'autopilot' setting - running from danger. In this case, not at all the best course of action.
31) Anonymous User
24/12/2016
I had a scary experience in Northumberland a few years back. The whole herd crossed a large field to approach my back. I was listening to my ipod so didn't hear them coming until it was almost too late. They weren't being inquisitive their manner was one of outright aggression. I avoided a couple of charges and managed to stay on my feet. With the herd closing around me, I went for the gap and ran. I had the narrowest of head starts but they closed so quickly that when I reached the nearest fence I dived over head first and arms outstretched. I would never have had time to climb over.

This was while walking the Hadrian's Wall Path, one of Britain's National Trails. I did nothing to unsettle them. I didn't have a dog. They didn't have calves. I'm sure I would have been seriously injured or killed had that fence been a few meters further. I later found out that a walker had been killed by cattle, not far away just a couple of days earlier.

In the couple of years since returning to Somerset, I've had two more incidents (in one I was butted) and also witnessed a man narrowly escape being trampled. I've heard of many other cases.

I grew up in the Lancashire countryside and can only recall one half-incident in 15 years or so. Now, in my 40s, I'm scared to enter any field with cows in. So what happened?

Two days after the Northumberland incident, I was talking to a dairy farmer. He offered this opinion. The farmer speculated that foot and mouth and the subsequent slaughter of much of the country's cattle might be to blame. He said that our original stock were selectively bred on small farms for hundreds of years and were used to being handled daily. After the cull, they were replaced by stock that included some from very large eastern European farms. These were wilder specimens, often bred for beef and less accustomed to human contact.

I'm not a farmer so I can't judge whether this is likely or not. I'm also wary of sounding like I'm blaming the eastern europeans, coming over here and trampling all our walkers!

I can say with certainty that it's no longer sufficient to just say "beware of the bull", as it's not just the bulls that are killing people every year and trampling over goodness knows how many.

I'd like to offer a few suggestions.

1. Challenge the assumption that the walker (or their dog) must have done something to frighten the cattle. In most cases there was no dog and the human was just walking.

2. Start a national online register where people can report incidents. I suspect there's far more than currently get reported.

3. Penalise farmers for moderate to severe incidents. I know that sounds harsh but cattle need to be selectively bred for docility as well as for financial considerations such as yield.

I'll finish with a question. If a dog bites someone, then it's often the case that the dog is destroyed and it's owner is prosecuted. If a cow kills someone what happens to the cow and it's owner?
32) Anonymous User
07/05/2017
I read these comments with interest as I tried to understand what happened to me and my friend a few days ago. We were walking through the grounds of farmland surrounding and supported by the NT in Surrey. There are superb signs warning you if the sheep are in or out of the field, so you know if to put your dog on the lead. I was totally ignorant to the dangers of cows. But as we entered our final (and very steep inclined) field, close to the NT house, we saw a herd of cows between us and the gate we needed to exit the field. Knowing that hundreds had walked in front of us, I wasn't concerned that we should just continue as normal. Needless to say, as we became parallel with the cows, about 6-10m from the gate, the cows stood up and just charged at us. We had dogs. As soon as my two saw the charge, they started barking. I fell. Looked up with cows over me. But i rolled, grabbed the dogs leads as they'd stayed close and ran out the field. I turned round to see where my friend was, and she had been totally surrounded - the cows were kicking, jumping, butting her. I watched for a few moments, screaming and shouting, then ran back into the field, grabbed my friend by the ankles as she was just dragged her out. We had tremendous support from NT staff and all the medical services, including Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance who air lifted her to St Georges in Tooting (the staff there were fantastic too). We're still piecing together what happened, but I just can't believe that I wasn't aware of how dangerous these animals are. My friend left the hospital the same day - she insisted - and with 'just' a broken leg and a number of cracked ribs it's amazing she's still here. The soft tissue damage is extensive, hoof prints on her head, back and legs, stitches in her head... For both of us though, I know the physical issues will resolve, but the memories of that day - are our worst nightmares... I can totally relate to all these comments and the fear. I've shared this story to my local athletics club - I'm a UKA official and often seen timing at BMC events in the South - I think the knowledge should be spread often - to dog walkers, walkers and runners - anyone who is to cross a field with cows - DON'T?!
33) Anonymous User
07/05/2017
I read these comments with interest as I tried to understand what happened to me and my friend a few days ago. We were walking through the grounds of farmland surrounding and supported by the NT in Surrey. There are superb signs warning you if the sheep are in or out of the field, so you know if to put your dog on the lead. I was totally ignorant to the dangers of cows. But as we entered our final (and very steep inclined) field, close to the NT house, we saw a herd of cows between us and the gate we needed to exit the field. Knowing that hundreds had walked in front of us, I wasn't concerned that we should just continue as normal. Needless to say, as we became parallel with the cows, about 6-10m from the gate, the cows stood up and just charged at us. We had dogs. As soon as my two saw the charge, they started barking. I fell. Looked up with cows over me. But i rolled, grabbed the dogs leads as they'd stayed close and ran out the field. I turned round to see where my friend was, and she had been totally surrounded - the cows were kicking, jumping, butting her. I watched for a few moments, screaming and shouting, then ran back into the field, grabbed my friend by the ankles as she was just dragged her out. We had tremendous support from NT staff and all the medical services, including Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance who air lifted her to St Georges in Tooting (the staff there were fantastic too). We're still piecing together what happened, but I just can't believe that I wasn't aware of how dangerous these animals are. My friend left the hospital the same day - she insisted - and with 'just' a broken leg and a number of cracked ribs it's amazing she's still here. The soft tissue damage is extensive, hoof prints on her head, back and legs, stitches in her head... For both of us though, I know the physical issues will resolve, but the memories of that day - are our worst nightmares... I can totally relate to all these comments and the fear. I've shared this story to my local athletics club - I'm a UKA official and often seen timing at BMC events in the South - I think the knowledge should be spread often - to dog walkers, walkers and runners - anyone who is to cross a field with cows - DON'T?!
34) Anonymous
07/05/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
35) Anonymous
08/06/2017
This comment broke the house rules and has been removed
22/07/2017
I believe injuries caused by cattle are far more common than people realise, partly due to lack of reporting of more minor incidents, and partly because official bodies don't want to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue.. (Just look at the number of people who've commented on this article!) I'm putting together a collection of real-life stories from walkers or runners who have been physically hurt by cattle. Happy to be contacted by anybody with a story to tell.
37) Anonymous User
03/08/2017
3 years ago my husband and I were nearly killed by cattle whilst on a public footpath, I now treat cattle with extreme caution - a small group of cattle - wary walkers have got together to start a webpage https://killercows.wordpress.com/
we are not anti farmers, we just would like to walk safely
38) Anonymous User
07/08/2017
I am sitting at a bridge wanting to go and write on the banks of the river, but cows are there. I have just googled how safe is it walk amongst cows and have come to these comments. I don't think I will bother now!!!! I will wait until farmer puts the cows on the other side of the river. Not chancing it.

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