What does it look like?
Why is it dangerous?
Some people are unaware that cows can very aggressive in spring and summer when they have calves to protect, and that cows will stampede as a herd if they feel any of their number is in danger. More people have been killed by cows in Britain than by bulls. Most people can recognise a bull from a cow, and know well enough to keep away.
Deer are aggressive and potentially dangerous animals, in all seasons. The females are very aggressive when they have fawns, from Spring through the summer. The males are particularly aggressive during the rutting season, from October to December, and their testosterone-crazed behaviour can be completely irrational.
How can I avoid it?
You should not enter an enclosure containing deer under any circumstances, whether or not you can see a warning sign. Deer use their antlers and hooves to attack and can very easily cause serious injury or death.
Sometimes people approach a fawn, thinking it has been abandoned and needs their help. in fact, the mother will almost always be just out of sight, ready to come running at you and attack. Stay well away from fawns, even if they are clearly injured. Deer are wild animals and they will NOT see you as a potential source of help.
As a rambler in the British countryside you do have a right to walk through fields of cows. However, think twice about doing so if they have young with them, or if you have a dog with you. There are a few small herds of cattle in Britain which are a rare breed that has never been domesticated; if you see a sign on an enclosure of cattle telling you not to enter, do not do so, as these wild animals are exceptionally dangerous and aggressive.
- Do not behave in a way which the cows could perceive as aggressive. Do not try to scare them away from you by waving your arms, shouting or generally behaving in a foolish manner.
- Walk as far from them as possible, following an established footpath if there is one; they will be accustomed to seeing people stick to this path, and will be more likely to consider your behaviour as safely predictable.
- Dogs are frequently implicated in aggressive cow incidents. Dogs are prone to behaving in ways which cows see as aggressive and provocative. Keep dogs under control at all times. A cow will often become aggressive towards a chasing dog, and when the dog returns to its owner, a cow or a group of cows may rush towards the dog and owner. If cows are charging you because they are reacting to your dog, let the dog go so that you can get to safety. The dog almost certainly can take care of itself.
- Walk well clear of calves, or avoid entering a field at all, as a mother will fight like a lioness to protect her young. Aggressive cow encounters often involve mothers protecting calves in the early spring or summer. Be particularly aware of calves in fields at these times, and do not dare to pet or touch calves, no matter how cute they may be; almost any human mother would be furious if a random stranger just walked up and started touching her baby – cows are no different.
- Avoid walking directly through a herd of cows if possible, but if you must walk through them, stay on the established hiker’s path. Speak in a normal voice to encourage them to move out of your way. Move slowly, keep calm and act authoritatively but peacefully. Farmers herding their cattle do not worry the animals by engaging in hand flapping, screaming or running about unpredictably, and neither should you.
- Evaluate surrounding terrain carefully if you encounter cows in an area where there is not an established hiking path. Do not put yourself in further danger by trying to walk around cows if doing so will expose you to cliffs or other steep, exposed terrain.
- Make sure cows see you as you are approaching so that you do not surprise them. Due to the placement of their eyes, cows do not have a straight-ahead line of sight, so make sure they respond to your voice and move before you are too close.
- If cows come towards you as a group, they may be curious. Remain calm and continue walking on quietly and quickly, trying to pass around them without making any startling movements. Cows will most likely leave you alone once they realize you are not a threat.
- If you detect an aggressive cow or a threatening group of cows, keep moving calmly and do not make direct eye contact. Keep your body facing the cow; do not turn your back to the animal or run.
- Finally, walk in remote areas with a partner so that you may help each other out. If you encounter cows with a partner or as a group of hikers, stay together to project a larger presence, and make sure that you move together in the same careful, calm way that you would move if you were to encounter cows on your own.
What can I do if I am attacked?
In the worst case scenario, if you are charged by a cow and if you do have a hiking stick with you, hit the animal directly on the nose to deter it. You need to achieve one decisive, good aim. Waving a pole erratically will only aggravate and provoke further aggression.
If you are attacked by a deer, or notice a change in its behaviour such as snorting or squaring up to you, your best hope by far is to climb a tree, higher than he can reach with his antlers. Deer happily stand right up on their hind legs, so you will need a tall tree.
If this is impossible, back away from it but continue facing the animal. Take off your coat and hold it up so that you appear larger. If you are hit, curl up in a fetal position to protect your vital organs. You will be stomped by hooves but this may reduce the level of serious injury.