General info > Getting started > Cows and bulls

What about cows and bulls?

dogandcattle.jpgWe get quite a few queries about cows and bulls and whether you will come to any harm walking through a field of them. They are pretty large animals so they can be a little daunting.

Generally speaking cattle are quite safe. Bulls are usually OK providing they are in a field with cows; if they are on their own they can be more troublesome. A bull should not be left on its own in a field with a public right of way going through it, so encountering this situation should be rare.
Cows, calves and bullocks may be curious and come over to see you, but you should just stand up to them (show them who's boss!). If you want them to go away wave your arms around to make yourself 'look big' and shout at them. Bear in mind that farmers herd their cattle all the time, so they expect to be moved around by people. Once you have done this once and experienced success you'll probably feel much more confident about being close to these animals in future.

If you find yourself in a field with a lone bull you might decide it is best to find another route. If you do decide to walk through the field try to give it a reasonably wide berth and walk as quietly round it as you can (try not to run!). If you have a close encounter with one you can (in theory) use the ring in its nose to control it. You need to grab the ring and twist it. But really it should never come to that.

The one situation in which cows are really dangerous is if they have young and you have a dog. Cows are frightened of dogs and they will defend their calves if they think the dog is going to get near (essentially they see the dog as a wolf). With a dog you should give herds a very wide berth and very definitely avoid getting between a cow and its young. If necessary herd the cattle out of the way before crossing the field with dog, either by getting one person to go ahead to do this or by tying up the dog and doing it yourself. If there's no way of doing this most farmers would prefer that you find another way round, even if it means going off the public footpath. They really don't want you to come to harm and be responsible for your injuries.

If cattle do try to attack your dog, let it go. The dog will be able to escape and look after itself. Hang on to the dog and the cattle may well attack you. There have been fatalities in these circumstances, so just remember - let the dog go! 

It is unfortunately the case that some landowners don't particularly like walkers and put up 'Beware of the Bull' signs to discourage people walking on their land. If you are on a right of way you should ignore such signs, take the precautions above and carry on enjoying your walk.