Chased by a herd of cowsJune 11, 2019
As a regular hillwalker, I often walk past cows. I’ve never been bothered by them – until a terrifying incident last week.
I usually have an inbuilt wariness around cows, but as I’ve walked past so many of them since I was a small child, and have almost always found them to be docile, sometimes curious, that I rarely feel afraid of them.
I lived in a rented cottage on a farm for four years, and there were often cows, and sometimes a bull in the field outside. They were very docile, and never bothered me.
A couple of times I have felt more wary than normal – for example, while walking up Conic Hill near Loch Lomond, alone, a few months ago, I passed a herd of Friesians, and one of them kept staring at me distrustfully. As a result, I walked off-path, keeping as far away from them as I could. When I walked back down the hill, they had moved out of the way.
Highland cattle near Conic Hill (the Friesian herd is higher up the hill). They always seem very docile.
In Yorkshire last week, I had a really terrifying encounter. We were visiting Huddersfield for the funerals of two elderly relatives who had sadly died within a few days of each other. We – my mother, sister and I – were staying at the Old Golf House Hotel in Outlane.
My sister had just returned from a holiday in California, and she was a bit jetlagged. We decided to go for a walk. I have a subscription to OS Maps online, so I drew up a 4km route on public access tracks that took in a hilltop viewpoint. We were starting out from quite a high altitude, so it wouldn’t be much of a climb.
Mum decided to join us, but after 1km she started to feel tired, so my sister said she’d walk back with her, and they’d meet me in a local pub for a late lunch.
At this point, we were still walking alongside the main road. Once I left the main road and got onto open land, I found the “public footpath” extremely overgrown.
The aptly-named Wilderness Farm. It looked deserted – maybe of interest to urbex fans?
I had to stride through long wet grass, and my shoes and lower legs were soon soaked. I could tell that I was on the “path”, because I had to cross six or seven drystone walls, each one with a stone stile.
After crossing a small, but very busy road, I came across an old “Public Footpath” sign. It looked as if it had seen better days.
The track led through a very cluttered field. There was a large radio mast, a wind turbine and some farm equipment including what looked like a feeding station for cows.
I could see a small herd of cows at the other side of the field. I wasn’t interested in them. I was heading for the gate which led to the hilltop viewpoint.
The gate had a spring catch and was very difficult to open. Once open, I had to lift it up a bit to get it closed again.
I took some photos of the view, before turning back.
Not a bad hilltop view, despite the M62 at the left hand side.
I couldn’t be bothered struggling with the gate again, so I just climbed over it. It creaked a lot. Was this what disturbed the cows?
This is the only photo I took that shows the cows. I hardly noticed them at this point – they were just specks in the distance. The gate was to the far right of the wind turbine, out of the picture.
I hardly noticed the cows as I started to walk back to the road, but then something caught my attention and I glanced round to my left, to see about 10 cows running towards me. For a moment I thought they were running towards their food trough, maybe thinking I was bringing food for them.
But then I noticed their faces. They looked angry! They were trotting towards me in a triangular formation, their heads held low. A black one at the front looked particularly aggressive. It was leaping from side to side, bucking its back legs up in the air.
I did not stop to take a photo!
Without any further hesitation, I did a 180 degree turn, and climbed back over the gate very quickly! I glanced back, and saw that the cows were rushing towards the fence. I took a path that led steeply down the hillside and disappeared from their view.
Luckily the cows decided not to pursue me any further, and I managed to find an alternative route back.
I have reported the incident to the Environmental Health department of the local council.
Small spring that I passed on the way back. But I needed something stronger than water!
Two trampling incidents in two days
A couple of days ago I read about a horrific incident involving angry cows on social media. A man posted in a Facebook group for hillwalkers that his partner had just been trampled by a herd of cows near a hill called Crimpiau in Wales, and that their small dog had run off in terror. She had a broken shoulder, seven broken ribs and an injury to her hand. The dog was found later, safe and well.
The man said that the herd didn’t have calves, and that he’d been told the cows had charged some other people over the past couple of weeks.
The following day, the BBC news reported that a grandmother had been trampled by cows while protecting her six-year-old granddaughter from the charging herd near Crimpiau. The little girl was not seriouly injured. The two women had been walking their dogs, on leads, on a footpath at the time.
74 deaths in 15 years
A report from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that 74 people in the UK were killed by cattle in the 15 years from 2000 to 2015. Of these 74 victims, 56 were farm workers. The remaining 18 were almost all lone walkers with dogs. Only one of these accidents involved a bull, and at least 10 involved cows with calves.
One aspect that wasn’t mentioned in the HSE’s report is weather conditions. I read several reports of people being attacked by cows during thundery weather. For some reason, it appears that electricity in the air can make cows agitated. It wasn’t thundery when my scary cow incident took place, but the weather was warm and overcast, and there may have been electricity in the air.
The weather was warm and overcast with some thunderstorms over the past few days too, when the cows attacked at Crimpiau.
Keep your dog on a lead when walking near cows, but if they start to charge as you’re walking your dog, let it go. It can run faster than you. The dog mentioned in the incident near Crimpiau was a little Border Terrier, like this one, and it got away unhurt while its owner was sadly trampled by the cows. Photo by Chadwest.
Thundery weather was mentioned as a factor by Simon Coldrick, a fell runner who was attacked and badly injured by cows after he ran through the herd during a race in early May 2014.
He said: “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.”
How to avoid cow attacks
• Steer clear of calves. DON’T pet them.
• Keep dogs on a lead, but if cows try to attack the dog, let it go. It can run much faster than you. People have been attacked while protectively clutching their pet dog.
• Don’t turn your back on the cattle. Try to retreat calmly, without making sudden movements.
• Inform the landowner and local authority of any scary incidents.