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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Walkers warned of animal attacks
By Greig Watson
BBC News, Nottingham

Walking boots
Thousands of people take to rural paths every day
New right to roam laws are opening up large areas of England's green and pleasant land to the public, but dangers lurk behind the hedgerows.

This week a 66-year-old woman was killed by a herd of cows while walking her dog in Warwickshire.

And just a few weeks earlier a walker in Derbyshire was badly injured when charged by cows. He was carried for a kilometre by a mountain rescue team before being put on an ambulance.

Dozens of walkers are injured every year when attacked by animals in what is usually regarded as benign countryside.

While there are no wild wolves or bears, you could be menaced by sheep, cows, and horses - or even the more exotic boar or oriental pheasant.

MENACING ANIMALS
Cows
They are big, big animals and if the mood takes them they can do a human a lot of damage
Dale Atkinson, NFU

Roger Vincent, press officer for Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) said: "There have been a number of deaths where people were crushed by cows.

"Some walkers are simply not very aware of the potential dangers, they need to have more respect for the animals.

"Once I was chased by a pig in Scotland. It just charged out of the undergrowth and I was surprised at how fast it went.

"In the end we had to jump over a wall to escape. It seemed very upset.

"People have to keep and eye out for problems and behave responsibly."

In 2002, the last year for which Rospa has figures, 80 people were injured by cows, 120 by goats, 220 by pigs and a hefty 317 by sheep.

Dale Atkinson of the NFU said: "People do forget that, while domesticated, farm animals are still unpredictable animals.

Plucky pheasant

"While they are just chewing grass, cows don't seem like much of a threat, but they are big, big animals and if the mood takes them they can do a human a lot of damage."

A third of people who go into the countryside take dogs, a combination which can lead to disaster.

A Rambler's Association spokesperson said: "Spring and early summer are particularly dangerous times as there are lots of young animals about and that is one thing that will get animals anxious.

"If they see a threat, especially from a dog, they will turn on that threat and won't mind too much about the human on the end of the lead.

NEW DANGERS
Wild boar
While dogs should be kept on leads most of the time, if you are charged by an animal, let the dog off the leash
Ramblers' Association

"While dogs should be kept on leads most of the time, if you are charged by an animal, let the dog off the leash.

"It can run faster than most animals and will probably be perceived as the main threat.

"The mistake that walkers make is to get between the cow and the dog and the cow's main reaction to a threat is to lean on it, and cows are very big."

Potential perils have increased alongside the diversity of the British countryside.

While bulls are a common sight in the countryside, attacks have been reported from a territorial Reeves pheasant and even wild boar.

Single boars have been recorded facing down walkers while entire packs have chased horse riders from their territory.

If people have problems, the Rambler's Association advises taking the matter up with the local highways authority, usually the county council.

The spokesman said: "There is legislation in place which covers the safety and behaviour of many animals.

"As long as walkers behave in a responsible fashion, there is no reason they should not have an enjoyable and safe time in the countryside."


SEE ALSO:
Offer made to destroy killer cow
15 Jun 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Woman trampled to death by cows
14 Jun 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Man seriously hurt in cow attack
19 Apr 05 |  Derbyshire
Rogue pheasant attacks villagers
06 Apr 05 |  Wiltshire
Tourists get wild boar protection
18 Mar 05 |  Gloucestershire
Boar close in on rider's home
02 Dec 04 |  Wales
Woman speaks of cow attack horror
26 Nov 04 |  Derbyshire


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