Walking your dogs near cattle – is it safe?

Last month, a lady dog walker was seriously injured by cows while walking her dog near the village of Sheldon in the Peak District and the incident serves to highlight the dangers of walking in fields where there are cattle – particularly if you have a dog with you.  Holidays4Dogs looks into this subject and offers some advice on the subject of walking near cattle with your dog.

This tragedy happened as the woman was walking her dog through a field of cows.  A passer-by eventually spotted the lady after she had been trampled by the animals and her pet dog was unfortunately killed in the process.

Details of exactly what the circumstances were are scant, but in 2005 the Times newspaper reported another incident of a woman walking her dachshund in a Warwickshire field who was trampled to death by a pregnant cow.  There were other cows in the field at the same time; many of them with young calves at foot and it is believed the cows were acting in defense of their young, after being alarmed by the presence of the dog.

There are miles and miles of public footpaths in the UK and many of these take the walker through fields full of livestock.  Generally, grazing animals will not be bothered by walkers passing through their field; livestock will generally become accustomed to people walking by if there is a well used footpath through the meadow and they may even avoid this part of the field as a consequence.

However, there are more and more reports of people being injured by cattle and the common denominator between incidents seems to be the presence of a dog or dogs.  The Ramblers Association report that, cattle view dogs to be much more of a threat than humans; particularly if the cows have calves with them.

Spring and early summer is the time when cattle can feel at their most vulnerable due to the presence of recently born calves; but any time of the year can be hazardous for dog walkers.  Although, there has been a lot of media coverage over the years, thankfully incidents where cattle have attacked or even killed people and dogs are rare.  However, it is still important to remain vigilant and calm when walking your dog amongst cattle.

If you must walk through a field of cows make sure you keep your dog on a short lead.  Livestock worrying is a serious offence; so do not take the risk.

Move calmly through the field and stick to the path, unless it is safer to walk around a herd; you are perfectly entitled to do this and then re-join the path when it is clear.  Avoid getting between cows and their calves.

Although this next point is in contradiction to the first; IF you feel in imminent danger from the cows, drop your dog’s lead so you can both make your escape separately.  A dog will be able to outrun cattle better than you and cattle are more likely to chase your dog, rather than you.

If you are at all concerned about how cattle may react to your dog – it may be safer to choose another route or turn around; especially if your dog is young, excitable or vocal.

If you experience any serious incident or threat of attack you can report this to the landowner, the highway or authority, the Health and Safety Executive and in very serious cases, the police.