THE sight of cattle grazing on a lush green field is commonplace in Dorset, but how dangerous can cows really be?

As we enter the summer months and muddy fields start to become hardened, more of us will be out rambling and enjoying the sun. 

Although most cattle appear docile and comfortable around humans, some wary cows and bulls can be protective of their calves and quickly become aggressive.

Earlier this month a woman was air lifted to hospital after being trampled by a herd of cows in a field near Tyneham village car park. 

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The average cow in the UK weighs around 1,200 lbs which is the equivalent of 85 stone - which is enough to kill you if you're crushed by one.

Though attacks are rare, they can be deadly and it is crucial to know how to behave when you're walking alone or with your dog through a herd.

Bournemouth Echo:

For the most part cows are docile, friendly and curious animals but they can become startled and defensive (stock).

Keep calm and carry on

Cattle can often be friendly with humans as many have become used to being around farmers and handlers for most of their lives.

However, it must not be forgotten that these huge beasts and in fact wild animals and should be treated with caution. 

Walkers are advised to keep calm and not make any sudden movements or loud noises when rambling through cattle fields as not to startle any cows.

If you do stumble upon a field of wary or aggressive cows then you should move away slowly and cautiously - remember to not turn your back to the cattle or make direct eye contact if you can, as this can arouse stress within the cattle unnecessarily. 

Cows will most likely leave you alone once they realize you are not a threat.

Cattle and dogs

Many paths snake through fields of cattle and it is every dog owner's responsibility to ensure their dog is under control, without being a danger, to animals and wildlife.

Cattle will instinctively become aggressive towards a chasing dog when protecting calves, often following the dog as it returns back to its owner.

The Ramblers Association has said that “cows see dogs as a much greater threat than humans”.

Walkers with dogs should take particular care when crossing fields where animals are being grazed.

Section 1 of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 makes it an offence for a dog to be at large, ‘that is to say not on a lead or otherwise under close control’, in a field or enclosure containing sheep.

It is also an offence for dogs to attack or chase livestock which is set out in Section 9 of the Animals Act 1971, which also states that farmers may shoot a dog if it is worrying or about to worry farm animals.

The countryside code

Walking on public by-ways and bridleways isn't without its dangers so everyone should be aware of the countryside code and how to keep safe around the wild animals that we share the land with.

The countryside code and livestock:

  • Your actions can affect other people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • Cooperate with people working in the countryside. For example, follow the farmer’s directions when animals are being moved or gathered. This helps keep everybody safe.
  • Give wild animals, livestock and horses plenty of space. Their behaviour can be unpredictable, especially when they are with their young and you could get hurt.
  • Do not feed livestock, horses or wild animals as it can cause them harm.

If you are attacked or frightened in an incident then contact the Health and Safety Executive and police if it's serious.