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How to Scare Cows Away if You're Being Charged by a Herd

Originating from the UK, Rick is a horse lover and livestock enthusiast with a background in journalism.

Despite their often calm demeanor, cattle can be fast and deadly.

Despite their often calm demeanor, cattle can be fast and deadly.

According to the CDC, dozens of people are killed or seriously injured each year by cattle in the US alone—sometimes as a result of a charging herd. Often, those killed or maimed by cows are innocent walkers who have ventured into the cows' field.

Sometimes, the approaching animals are just being curious, but occasionally, they become fearful and surround the walker. In rare cases, they may become aggressive and actively charge walkers. Cattle are fast, heavy, powerful creatures, and many people are unable to escape the advance of a charging herd.

How Fast Can Cows Run? (Can You Outrun a Cow?)

Cows can run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (approximately 40 kilometers per hour) for short periods. Since 15 mph is considered fast for the average person, it is unlikely that most people would be able to outrun a charging cow. That said, elite athletes have achieved much higher sprinting speeds (28 mph is the world record), so if you're an Olympic-level track star, you just might stand a chance.

Recent Deaths and Injuries by Cattle

  • In 2010, a walker was killed and his wife was left in critical condition after the pair were charged by a bull in Stanford-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire.
  • In June of 2009, veterinarian Liz Crowsley, 49, was trampled to death by a herd of cows as she walked her dogs in the Yorkshire Dales.
  • Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, a close colleague of Tony Blair, was trampled in 2009 while walking with his guide dog Sadie in the Peak District.
  • In October of 2007, UK police inspector Chris Poole, 50, was walking his dog through a field when he suffered life-threatening injuries after being trampled by a herd of cows.

Unfortunately, these are not entirely uncommon incidents. There have been many more, not just in the UK but also in the U.S., where 20 people die each year in cattle-related accidents on average. Despite these startlingly high figures, there are a number of measures that can be taken to avoid being trampled to death if a herd of cows begins to charge you.

6 Things to Do if Cows Charge

  1. Avoid entering cow fields.
  2. Let go of your dog.
  3. Don't try to outrun them.
  4. Run downhill if possible.
  5. Make yourself as loud and as big as possible.
  6. Punch or hit the cows on the nose as a last resort.
Ramblers and walkers often venture into fields full of cows. This should be avoided.

Ramblers and walkers often venture into fields full of cows. This should be avoided.

1. Avoid Entering Cow Fields

The best way to get out of a cow charge unscathed is to avoid the situation in the first place. You should never enter a cow field if you can avoid it.

It's easy to become complacent while walking or playing in the countryside, and cows often seem safe and placid. Nevertheless, you should always try to take alternative routes around fields that have livestock in them—even if this means adding an extra 30 minutes to your walk.

If you have to enter a cow field, do so quietly and stay close to the perimeter. Pick up a strong walking stick before you go, as this can be used to hit the cows in the event of an emergency (explained in more detail later).

2. Let Go of Your Dog if Cows Charge

Cows—especially those with young calves—often see dogs as a threat. In the presence of a dog, cows can and often do become fiercely protective. If you've got your dog on a lead and notice that nearby cattle are advancing quickly, always let go of your dog. Chances are your dog will be able to escape and the cows may no longer see you as a threat.

Editor note: Only let go of your dog if the cows are already charging you. If a group of cows merely seems uneasy, releasing your dog could actually provoke a charge, especially if the dog is curious and moved toward the herd.

3. Don't Try to Outrun Them

Cows take a while to pick up speed, but once they're galloping, they can be pretty fast. You should only try to run away from cows if there is a relatively short distance to the nearest exit—let's say fewer than 20 metres. In short, judge the distance and speed, and if you think you can get out of the field before the cows catch up to you, then go for it. If not, the cows will probably catch up and surround you.

4. Run Downhill if Possible

Normally, you shouldn't try to outrun cows, but if the field is sloped and your exit is downhill, you may have more time to escape. The muscle structure of a cow's neck does not allow it to run quickly on a downward gradient. When following you downhill, cows will have to slow down and pay attention to how they are moving. This may provide you extra time to escape.

5. Make Yourself as Loud and as Big as Possible

If there's no easy way to escape the field and the cows are already moving toward you, your only remaining option may be to be brave. Be bold and walk toward the animals. Shout as loud as you can to scare them off and throw your arms in the air. If they stop advancing, continue away from them to safety.

Editor note: You should only do this if the cows are already charging you. If a group of cows merely seems uneasy, making startling noises and movements could scare them into aggression.

6. Punch or Hit the Cows in the Nose as a Last Resort

If shouting loudly and waving your arms hasn't worked and they are still charging, make a tight fist and punch a couple of them on their noses as hard as possible. Accompany this with a violent roar. Hopefully, this will work and the herd will be frightened away. If you happen to have that walking stick you collected upon entering the field as mentioned earlier, use it to give them a jolly hard whack on the nose.

How to Avoid a Cow Charge in the First Place

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Mark on June 23, 2019:

I was charged yesterday whilst running through a field . I was very scared . Managed to escape .

Queen on December 14, 2013:

Wtaf??!??

cowlover on October 21, 2012:

Hey I live on a farm. Cows r big animals. Hint just leave them alone in the first place it helps.ive been charged not fun I run and scream best thing to do.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 07, 2012:

Wba a great hub which I have to vote up up and away!!

Great work;take care and enjoy your day.

Eddy

WildRoseBeef from Alberta, Canada on January 21, 2012:

I have, twice, but that when I was just a little girl and did only that which came as instinct: scream bloody murder and head for safety, which ever place is safe for you, be it in a truck, on the other side of a truck, bale or fence, any solid object that is large and wide enough to keep you safe from an angry animal.

As an adult I've never been charged by a bull or cow mainly because I make sure I never get complacent around them, and because I've learned to tell what a cow or bull is trying to say with their body language and vocalization. They always give you subtle warning signs that they're not comfortable with your presence or that you're getting too close for their liking. Most people say that they're very unpredictable animals, but this really isn't that true. Yes as prey animals you don't know WHEN they're going to snap, but you can tell IF they are going to or not by the warning signs the give you.

Common sense details that you make sure you have an escape route planned out if you have to go in the same pasture or corral as the animal that has the potential to be dangerous. A walking stick is always great to have on hand. And NEVER turn your back on a bull or a cow that is most likely going to be overprotective of her calf. If something does happen, like if an animal does start to challenge you, you can make yourself as big as possible and give the animal a good hard whack across the nose. However, if the animal charges you, that animal won't stop for nothing, so make sure you have some place safe to run to to keep you safe, as I mentioned above.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on January 21, 2012:

WildRoseBeef, thanks so much for that. It helps a great deal. Have you ever been confornted by a charging cow or bull? If so, what is it best to do in this situation?

WildRoseBeef from Alberta, Canada on January 20, 2012:

I've been around cattle for a long time and I see a bunch of things missing in your hub that need to be filled in. For the part about running downhill, I really don't see merit to that. I've seen cattle that never slow down when running downhill, and the muscle structure in the neck really has nothing to do with it. I've seen calves and older steers that weigh about half a ton that will go tearing off from the top of a manure pile faster than you can imagine. They're actually slower going uphill than down.

For the walking stick part of things, you also gotta aim for the nose, not the head.

And it may also help to tell others the difference between the action of a charging bovine versus cattle that are actually running up to you to greet you or for a treat. I've been surrounded by "cows" before (over 60 head at once), quite often more than once, and they're intentions are not to harm, but rather to greet, sniff you, then move on after a little while if you've got nothing for them. A charging animal will come at you with the head lowered. Warning signs include tossing of the head, pawing the earth, showing the side, wrinkling of the nose, growling, or even not seeming to pay attention to you until you get too close.

Most people are injured or killed by cattle either as a result of a bull trying to protect his females, or a cow sees a person and a dog as a threat to her calf and thus needs to be protected. A herd of cows will charge and trample someone if that person has a dog with them or if they've never seen a person stumble or trip and fall before. They may also charge (or just run away) if the person is a total stranger and makes certain sounds that cause panic and dissent in the herd.

Yes, complacency is a big factor in injuries and fatalities from cattle, but so is lack of knowledge of bovine behaviour and psychology. If you don't know how cattle think and behave or are misinformed by what an animal is really telling you, you're more apt to get in to deep trouble.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on September 05, 2011:

Ahhh I see! Very good!

The Logician from now on on September 05, 2011:

I know I was just trying to be funny - guess I failed.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on September 05, 2011:

tsadjatko, they don't teach these things in school. It was a friend who lives in the countryside that told me about how to scare cows. Then I asked a vet and she said the same thing. Perhaps children who are in the scouts are told about it, though.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on September 05, 2011:

Hi, thanks for all the comments! lovelypaper, you're forgive for laughing as it is quite a unique how to! However, people being killed by cows does happen, so the more people who are aware of what to do, the better.

The Logician from now on on September 04, 2011:

Now why don't they teach this in schools? I tell you our education system has just gone to pot! Thunbs up and super useful! funny! and interesting!

Renee S from Virginia on September 04, 2011:

Forgive me for laughing when I read the title. That thought has never crossed my mind.

Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on September 04, 2011:

Thanks for the tips, I didn't realize that cows could get so aggressive!

Cloverleaf

Imogen French from Southwest England on September 04, 2011:

good advice! I was contemplating this very subject today as I walked through a field of cows with rather large horns.