Between 1993 and 2015, cattle killed 13 walkers in Britain. Given the sheer quantities of cows and hikers sharing access to footpaths, that might not seem too worrying. People who work with cows are at much greater risk than walkers. However, I’ve had a greater number of awkward encounters with cows in recent years which makes me wonder whether farming practices are changing, at least in the Highlands.
Cows can be unpredictable. One small herd I lived near and which were loose on open ground would ignore me most days, threaten me occasionally and run away from me in terror every now and then. The two most concerning incidents came when I walked across the front of cows with calves. I was trying to give them room but the mums decided the distance, 10 to 15 metres, wasn’t great enough. Turning my back on the cow and walking directly away stopped the advance in both cases.
This technique also worked in New Zealand when I made the mistake of approaching shade which already contained a massive, Hereford bull. I do appreciate that turning your back on an advancing bull requires fortitude but it seems to work.
A television programme from quite a few years ago described how to deal with angry dogs. If you look down and round your shoulders, the dogs think you are a wimp who just wants to get past. I have tried this method with horses and it seems to relax them also.
Two things guarantee disaster. Trying to rescue your dog from cows or water and staring at large, anxious animals. Swivelling eyes allow humans to appear to be looking away while actually keeping abreast of developments. Sadly, your dog will just have to sort things out for itself.