Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 09:14 UK

Walkers warned over cow dangers


Farmer Ed Rees, of NFU Cymru, gives advice on how to avoid cows stampeding.

Farming unions have warned walkers, especially those with dogs, to be aware of the dangers posed by cows with calves.

Three people have died in as many months and others have been injured.

They include the former Home Secretary David Blunkett who was trampled while walking with his guide dog.

Farmers are becoming increasingly worried and say walkers should be aware that cattle are naturally protective towards calves and can attack dogs.

Three walkers have died in the past three months alone.

The former Home Secretary David Blunkett was trampled earlier this year as he was out walking with his guide dog Sadie in the Peak District.

David Blunkett: 'The next thing I knew the cow had hit me.'

The Sheffield MP let Sadie go and she ran to safety.

He suffered three broken ribs and bruising.

"It made me realise how serious this can be and I've had literally scores of letters from people injured or relatives of people who have been injured or even killed," said Mr Blunkett.

The farming unions say walkers who feel threatened by cattle should always let their dog off the lead.

They say they want people to enjoy the countryside but be aware of the dangers.

Ed Rees, chairman of the livestock board at the National Farmers' Union Cymru (NFU), said it was natural that cows would protect their calves.

"Initially when you're walking with a dog, keep it on a lead in case you encounter sheep.

Don't be afraid of them but be mindful they are protective of their young
If you feel threatened let your dog off the lead
Take a walking stick with you
Be bold and walk straight through them, if the animals move towards you
Source: NFU Cymru

"But if it's cattle, and if they come towards you, let the dog go as they'll see the dog as the enemy and if you're seen as trying to protect your dog, you may be in trouble.

"Just take a walking stick with you - be bold and walk straight through them. These animals are just protecting themselves and they see the dog as a threat to themselves and their calves."

Mr Rees said it was tragic when the trampling incidents occurred but they were still very rare.

Farmer Harold Lee, 75, from Somerset died in hospital earlier this month after being trampled after his herd were apparently startled by a fire engine siren.

A walker, Anita Hinchey, 63, was trampled to death in July by cows when she tried to rescue her dog which ran into the herd near Cardiff.

In June, 49-year-old vet Liz Crowsley was trampled to death by a herd of cattle while walking the Pennine Way with her two dogs.

Before the latest incidents, Health and Safety Executive figures showed that 18 people had been killed and 481 injured by cows in the previous eight years.

We asked if you had ever been in danger or injured by cows. Here are a selection of your responses.

Walking on edge of field with a mixed herd of cattle over the far side.. Walking with two tiny dogs and one lab sized dog on leads but the herd came toward us and started running us out of the field. Let go of the dogs but one decided to protect us by barking madly at the herd and trying to stand his ground - he was the only one of us not petrified! We scooped him up and ran to the gate with the herd on our heels making a hell of a racket. I'm just very garetful our very old dog kept running because I don't think the herd would have stopped until they'd done some damage.. No calves were in the field. I didn't stop shaking for a week and coulndt even laugh about how lucky we were for at least two weeks!
Sam bernardis, Peterborough, uk

We had a very scary experience whilst on a walking holiday and had to jump a fence with our two dogs to escape aggressive cattle chasing us and trying to kick us (it just didn't occur to us in the panic to let the dogs go). We would never walk through a field with cattle now (even without dogs)
Joyce, West Linton, UK

I had a terrifying experience in June the day before vet Liz Crowsley was killed when I was walking on a public footpath through a field on a route near my home that I use regularly. Fortunately I released my dogs but if I hadn't I would most definitely have been seriously injured or killed by a herd of 40+ cattle including a bull. These incidences are more common than the organisations with a vested interest would have you believe and in my opinion farmers are being willfully and knowingly negligent when putting highly dangerous animals in areas where they will come into contact with the public. More people will die and be seriously injured before something is done about it.
Stewart Thompson, Darlington, England

A neighbour and I were walking our dogs (on leads) a couple of months ago in a field in Ongar where there are cows and for no reason at all they began to charge us and headbut my neighbour!! I was absolutely terrified and ran for my life! There were no young calves around - just a bunch of evil cows! Needless to say I do not go into this "cow field" any more :-)
Tracey Cusick, Ongar Essex

HI everyone Cows with calves pose a very high risk especially continental breeds. I currently have one on the farm here and she will eat nuts out of my hand most of the year. The day she calves and for weeks after my life is in danger if I get too close. Dogs also will seek refuge behind owners and add further risk of personal injury.I have worked with stock from my youth and didn't think that occassionaly a cow could be more dangerous than a bull.The moral of the story is keep well clear of them just in case there is a rogue waiting. Regards
Arthur McKevitt, Newry NI

i used to work on a farm with cattle, when herding them they can charge but in general they are more afraid of you, if you let them see you are frighted thats when it starts being a problem, all you need to do is stay calm make yourself look bigger by holding out your arms its pigs with piglets that are the very violent ones
chris, northants

Failing light and a wrong turn whilst walking in Derbyshire in March of this year found my fiancée and I in a field with several dozen cows. A slow amble towards us turned into a forthright advance as we angled to the edge of the field and beckoning safety. To make good our escape we clambered down a small embankment to a favourably placed river and traversed the final 100 yards ankle deep. As I fully expected (read: desperately hoped!) the cows were reticent to join us at water's edge but uncomfortably tracked us all the way to the fence at the edge of their land. On reaching our safe haven we noted a sign warning of the danger of entry. Perhaps when the recession is over a second sign will be placed at the entrance on the other side of the field...
Richard, Hale, Cheshire

I work for the electricity board, and regularly have to walk into fields to operate apparatus on our overhead lines. I've lost count of the number of times I've had to jump fences to avoid aggressive (this word is chosen carefully - I'm not confusing aggresion with curiosity) cattle. I now carry a long stick so I can at least make some attempt at defending myself if required.
Robert McMillan, York

Whilst taking a holiday in north wales two years ago, we decided to go on a walk recomended by the locals, which happend to have led me my partner and two children into the pathway of a heard of cow's whith there young. We approached with extreme caution so we did not startle them as they were on the pathway of the walk.We believe the only reason they did'nt feel threatened was because we had our young with us and maybe nature prevails, however they still seemed curious which made us feel uneasey, may of been a different story had we had a dog with us.
David Mitchell, Croydon

I've never had a dog but have been chased several times by cattle whilst walking in the countryside and not only by those with calves. On one particularly frightening occasion some years ago, my brother, father and I were pursued across a field by a whole herd of bullocks. These days, if I cross a field holding cattle of any kind, I keep close to the field boundary so I can hop over if needs be. I might add, though, that none of this compares with the terror of being charged by a startled horse, which happened to me in Essex a couple of years ago! I was also butted by a sheep once which was more frightening then you might think!
Max Wurr, Stanmore, UK

I was charged at by a herd of cows years ago and after throwing ourselves across the gate we saw the farmer and he said it was milking time and the cows might have got spooked when we didnt do what they expected! I have often been laughed at when out walking because of my extreme caution in cow fields, so at least now I know that this is not misplaced, walking round the edge is the safest place.
Christine Prior , Bristol

My husband and I go walking at least once a week and I'd like to stress that we've never had a problem with cattle. Last week we walked through a field with several cows and calves, a bull, and several bullocks. One of the calves came over to investigate but the cows weren't interested in us. I know that terrible things can happen. Cows are large animals and can be dangerous. But the vast majority of the time they are perfectly docile. This is good advice for people. It always pays to be aware of your surroundings. We always take a minute before entering a field with livestock to take account of the situation but this is little more than a cursory habit.
Arianne, Herts

I was walking in the Warwick countryside yesterday, when a man with two labs walked into the same field we were in. There was a herd of about 40 young cows in the field. This man's dogs were not on a lead and they charged the cows, nipping at their legs and barking and chasing them. Whilst I appreciate the seriousness of the warning this article conveys, irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to torment a herd are equally to blame. I am with the farmers on this one!
belinda sullivan, London

I was charged by a cow once whilst out walking with no dog. Fortunately quick reactions and a handy large lump of wood did the trick. I now detour around fields with cows to be on the safe side.
Colin, Kent

I have previously been charged by cows and now regularly refuse to walk through field of cattle. In my experience cows will get up and lumber towards you, even just out of curiosity. As someone who doesn't like, let alone own a dog I am led to think it is not just dogs that scare these animals.
Patrick, Dewsbury, England

My wife and I have been chased several times by these animals, including once when she was pregnant with our first child. Even without calves, these animals can be well dangerous and should be kept off public rights of way. I now carry at least my walking stick and sometimes several pebbles in order to defend myself, although knowing how our species actively favours others above our own, that's probably illegal...Let's just say that I used to have, but no longer have, any qualms about eating beef.... :)
Tony, Paignton, UK

We have twice had to jump barbed wire fences to escape charging cattle. There were no calves in the field on either occasion. The NFU seem amazing complacent, it's all very well saying let the dog go but like Sam above our dog doesn't leave us in these situations. The footpath in question links our village to the next and is used not only by locals but by families on holiday and by young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards. We have lived in the country for 30 years and this issue seems to have got very much worse recently. Because of the lie of the land here it is not always possible to see if there are cows in a field before entering so what have been public rights of way for hundreds of years are becoming no go areas.
David Boddy, Wareham, England

I was attacked by a herd of cows when walking with my dog near Dalrigh, Tyndrum. Both of us were lucky to escape as we had both fallen over at times when running away and had to roll to avoid their hooves raining down on us. We finally managed to reach a fence then punched and kicked to clear a space and allow us to jump it. The dog was scared but did not want to leave my side. We were lucky there was a fence close to us as they can easily outpace a human on that terrain.
Colin Craig, Alloa, Clackmannanshire

I and my elderly Labrador had a narrow escape a few years ago when she was attacked by a herd of Charollais with calves. We didn't realise they were in the field until half way across, by which time it was too late and they charged. My poor dog reached the gate literally two inches in front of the leading cow, and squeezed through a gap she'd never normally have got through. If I'd had her on a lead, it would have been a very different story for both of us. It is the farmer's responsibility not to put animals which they well know may be dangerous in a field crossed by a public footpath. It is the walker's right to walk a dog along public footpaths without having to worry if they're going to be attacked. And it is NOT enough for a farmer to put up a notice (as one did near us) saying 'Bull in field, stick to the path'. Does the bull know where the path is? I think not!
Pam Thomas, Devizes Wilts

Cows don't always attack just dogs and their owners unfortunately! Our encounter happened yesterday afternoon, my fiance and I were walking through a field near Marsh Gibbon in Bucks. The field had about half a dozen cows grazing seemingly peacefully and not bothered by two walkers. However, after we had passed the herd and were near the exit to the field, one of them decided to take a dislike to me and begun charging towards me! It was only by pure chance that my fiance turned around to speak to me and realised what was happening as we had our backs to the cows by this time. He took quick action of shouting which thankfully made it stop in it's tracks. We have no idea why it charged, we weren't near them, hadn't approached them, didn't have a dogs with us and there were no calves around. Incidentally, the other cows never moved!
Louise H, Buckinghamshire

I had to walk from the village where I live to collect my car from a local garage, so I decided to go by the shortest route, across the fields. I used public footpaths where I had previously walked with my family and which are used regularly by walkers. There was a herd of young bullocks in the field, a long way from me. I had been walking for years and had never had a problem with cows, but this time, I noticed when I was half way across a long field that a group of them was starting to canter towards me. The bullocks were getting more and more excited, bucking and prancing and soon the whole herd joined them, getting faster and faster. I was on my own, with no dog. I was quite a long way from the nearest fence and stile and decided to act as if I wasn't worried, so I just walked faster. Then, when the stile came closer and I reckoned I could get to it before them, I ran as fast as I could. I love walking, but this event has now made me extremely nervous if I enter a field !

Janet E, Monmouthshire, Chepstow, Wales

I have walked through many fields of cows without a problem in the past and have never been scared of them. However a few weeks ago my partner and I tried to cross a field of Fresians in Lancashire, no dogs or calves present. Just after we passed the herd, 3 of them gave chase. With no stick or stones to defend ourselves we ran for the nearest style (not our intended exit from the field so a large detour required to get back on track). It makes us wonder, looking at the stories in the press and other reader's comments what could be making cows more agressive these days? Is it something in their feed? We go out of our way to avoid cows nowadays - maybe that's what someone intends - a conspiracy to try to stop walkers from enjoying their right of way across open farmland? Surely not! Makes me wonder though . . .
Mike, South Shields, Tyne & Wear

A number of contributors have suggested that farmers keep cows away from public rights of way. Ideally this should happen, but with the Countryside Rights of Way legislation many farmers now have rights of way covering every single one of their fields. In my case I have only 3 fields where the public should not roam, and even then I sometimes spot hikers going through them. Cows are curious animals, with or without calves, always take a walking stick with you, be confident, talk firmly to them and if they get too near stretch your arms and walking stick outwards to fill the maximum area (cows join up all the external points and so you suddenly become massive in their eyes).
Chrys G, Northumberland

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