IT CERTAINLY makes a change from fighting heath fires.

But rescuing this stranded cow near Christchurch posed its own problems for Dorset Fire, who received a call from the RSPCA on Thursday, alerting them to the animal’s plight.

George Hughes, a photographer who witnessed the scene beside the Clockhouse Stream at Burton said three appliances were sent to the scene.

“I saw them arriving so I grabbed my camera,” he said.

He saw the cow, neck deep in boggy land owned by Waters Farm, while the service discussed how best to save her.

“They tried to do it with a rope but they couldn’t get her over the wall on the side of the river,” he said. “Then a vet arrived and sedated the cow so the firemen could get a sling underneath her and hoist her out. She wasn't making a fuss but she didn’t look very happy.”

Eventually the cow was released at 6.45pm. the call had come at 425pm.

Farmer Ian Farwell said the cow was fully recovered from her ordeal but admitted he wasn’t sure how she’d come to be in the river, which is bounded by a low concrete wall at that point.

“It was probably one of several things,” he said. “Either she went for a drink and the other cattle accidentally pushed her over; a bit likes kids messing around. Or she could have been chased in there or tried to get a drink from the river, overbalanced and just toppled in.”

The cow was sedated because, he said: “The fire service were concerned about their safety when they were fixing the harness on, she might have become distressed.”

A spokesman for Dorset Fire said: "A crew from Christchurch and two technical rescue appliances from Poole attended and it took a little time to work out the best way to help her - you can't really approach a distressed animal from behind. However, the cow was rescued safety and it was a bit different to all the heath fires recently!"