Recently, me and my dog, Winston, have been doing a lot of hiking through the Peak District and other areas of the UK.
We usually walk in National Parks and follow public footpaths and bridleways.
Often, the trails can lead us through private farmland with grazing livestock – usually sheep.
On these occasions, I either put my dog on a lead or command him to walk to heel beside me whilst we pass through trying to cause as little disturbance and possible.
I have no problem walking through fields of sheep and/or horses (although one sheep did headbutt my dog on our last hike) but I have always been extremely wary of cattle.
Since I don’t know that much about cows or how they react/behave I always try to give them as wide a berth as possible.
In most cases, this is really easy as the herd tends to be in one area of the field.
Here’s an example of some dairy cows that we had to pass on one of our recent hikes.
In the above photograph, the trail actually led us right through the center of the herd, but it was much more sensible for us to walk around the other side of the field and leave them to it.
In situations like this, they don’t tend to be bothered by us.
However, on my last hike, we were not as fortunate.
How now brown cow
We were following The Gritstone Trail and it lead us through a large field of brown cows. (Not quite sure what the proper name is for them, but they were brown.)
Upon noticing a few of the herd, we began looking for a detour.
Unfortunately, this was not possible.
The trail needed for us to cross through a narrow and shallow stream, of which, there was one cow stood in the middle of the stream and three directly on the other side of it.
Not feeling very confident about it, I walked up the fence line to see if there was any other way for us to cross without disturbing the cows.
Needless to say, I couldn’t find one and I headed back to the stream hoping that they had moved on by now.
The one that was in the stream had moved, but there were still three of them hovering around the bank on the other side.
I needed to cross so I decided to edge through slowly.
My dog was off lead but was walking to heel beside me.
We walked down the bank and across the stream, but on the way out and up the bank I got stuck!
…and when I say stuck, I mean stuck!
I had sunk down through some wet sloppy mud mixed with cow shit. It flowed over my ankles and came halfway up my calves.
My dog had managed to clamber out and walk near the tree line.
In the meantime, I was about 5 feet away from three cows that were now fixated on me and I couldn’t move due to being stuck!
I did the only thing that anyone would do in this situation…
…I flapped my map at them!
Not the most ingenious thing, I know, but it did make them back up a few steps and allow me to scramble out of what felt like a giant cowpat.
At one point, as I was pulling my leg out, I did question whether my boot would be left behind in the mud. Luckily for me, my laces were done up tight and I managed to keep hold of my shoes.
After clambering up the bank and away from the three cows, I looked up to see a field full of more friggin cows!!
I was not overly happy at this point, but at least I now had more space to walk around them, and I wasn’t trapped in mud.
I kept my dog to heel and we proceeded to walk through the field giving them a wide berth.
But instead of leaving us to it, they all started following us.
I kept trying to shush them away but they were persistent buggers and kept closing in on us.
I saw a line of electric fencing and decided to quickly duck underneath it, but due to my 50L backpack, I got all tangled up it. I ended up getting electrocuted several times.
Now, I’ve owned horses and have been caught by an electric fence a few times, but this fence must have had the voltage turned up fully because it was giving me a strong belt every few seconds.
In the end, I just unclipped my backpack and let it drop to the floor whilst I made it to safety. I turned around to drag my bag under the fence and noticed that now the whole herd was focussed on us and within an arm’s length.
I needed to get out of this field.
I saw a gate to my left and decided to stay behind the electric fencing and follow it to the gate.
As we were walking down the side of the field, the cows stayed right with us – trotting and huddling together to get closer.
…the electric fence line ran out!
…and we were still about 100 meters from the gate with over 20 cows in our way.
I was stuck.
Me Vs Them
I had no choice but to chase the cows away – I was going to have to take them on head first!!
I told my dog to wait behind the fence line and I took my backpack off. I began waving my arms and shushing the cows to back up.
As they took a few steps back, I ducked under the fencing and kept driving them backward. Every time a cow took a step forwards I got a little bit more dramatic jumping up and down trying to scare it back again.
I had no idea whether this was a good idea or a bad idea, but I was kinda stuck for options.
Once I felt the cows had backed up enough I turned around to get my backpack and my dog.
As soon as my dog came under the fence and into the field, the whole herd of cows came trotting back over straight for us.
Turns out that they were interested in my dog. They were slightly intimated by me, but it was my dog that they wanted to drive away.
My dog was off-lead and could technically outrun the cows. But if my dog is chased and is scared he doesn’t run away, he runs to me! Horses have chased him in the past and he runs straight into space between my feet.
I would not be able to outrun the cows, so instead, I had to run AT them.
Each time the cows came hurtling over to us I had to run straight at them with twice the aggression making them stop and back up.
I felt as though I was in a scene from Braveheart running into battle!!
I was screaming at them, swearing that them, kicking dust towards them, running straight at them waving my arms, throwing rocks and dried pieces of mud at them, jumping up and down – anything I could to scare them back.
Eventually, we made it to the gate…
…it was locked!
After one more attempt at driving the cows back, I quickly turned around, picked up my dog, and threw him over the gate.
The gate led straight onto a road so I was lucky that he just waited at that bottom and didn’t wander off into the middle of it.
I then proceeded to jump the gate, collapse in a heap, and catch my breath.
When I started to carry on down the road, one of the neighbors came out of his house and asked if I had calmed down now – he must have seen my full-on battle attempt from his window.
He said that the cows were always trying to chase the dogs but he’s never seen anyone try and chase them away as vigorously as I did.
I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not.
It could have been a different story
Looking back on it now, it was very dangerous.
I was lucky that I can control my dog’s movements whilst he was off-lead and that I was fit enough (and had the balls) to take the cattle on head first.
It could have easily been a very different situation.
To be honest, I was bricking it as it would have only taken one cow to not back away and the others would have followed it forwards and we could have easily trampled.
P.S. What are your thoughts on this? I’m no expert on cows so I would be grateful if anyone could shine a light on what exactly happened here and how I can avoid such situations in the future.
P.P.S Sadly, shortly after publishing a post, a news story started circling on social media regarding an elderly man and his collie being trampled by cattle whilst out on a walk. Neither of them survived. I’m wondering if we need some stricter regulations on this. I’d love to know your opinion and if you have had a similar experience.
- *ATTEMPTING* to Hike The Gritstone Trail, UK (Part 1)
- *ATTEMPTING* To Finish Hiking The Gritstone Trail, UK (Part 2)
- 22 Photos to Inspire You to Go Hiking in the Peak District, UK