Deaths and injuries to walkers caused by cattle – research findings.
Carri Westgarth and Marie McIntyre are both researchers from the University of Liverpool, and both have personal reasons to be interested in attacks by cattle. They recently completed a scoping exercise to determine the extent of the problem.
What did they do? They searched newspaper reports published over a 20 year period, looking for reports of cattle attacks on walkers, including both deaths and injuries.
This is likely to be a huge underestimate of the true scale of the problem, because many attacks go unreported and unrecorded, but it’s a good start.
Here is a summary of their findings, published in 2016. They uncovered 54 separate attacks by cattle on walkers during the 20 year period.
- 48% were caused by herds of cattle
- 22% by single cows
- 20% by cows with calves
- 7% by heifers
- only one bull attack was recorded.
What about dogs?
- Of the walkers who were killed, 94% had dogs
- Looking at all attacks, 2/3 involved dogs.
- (…. and that means 1/3 of all attacks did not involve dogs.)
The researcher’s conclusion after researching cattle attacks?
They called for an official system to collect and document cattle incidents. This would allow us to properly identify risk factors and develop better guidance to reduce attacks.
(The COWS group fully support this conclusion. In the absence of an official system, we’ve started our own. So don’t forget you can Report an Incident here.)
In the meantime, the only piece of advice the researchers felt they could issue to walkers was this.
“Remember your dog can run faster than you – let it go.”
Find out more about this research paper?
Read the excellent article on the subject, reprinted in full on our site: When cows attack: how dangerous are cattle and how can you stay safe around them?
Or, if you prefer, you can read the full article as published in BMJ journal Injury Prevention: Are cattle dangerous to walkers? A scoping review
Our thoughts on cattle attacks
Cows are dangerous and attacks on walkers are not uncommon. Those of us who have been injured by cattle know this. Yet the numbers of incidents are underestimated and the risks dismissed as negligible.
- Some research suggests maternal defensive aggression is behind many attacks, and that dogs are a particularly provoking factor.
- There is anecdotal evidence that some continental breeds are more aggressive than traditional English cows.
The trouble is we currently lack the hard evidence we need to back up any recommendations for change.
That is why we really need more research to discover the extent of the problem and to determine what precautions should be taken to improve the safety of the countryside.
How can YOU help? Please don’t forget to Report any Incidents to us on Killer Cows, and encourage other walkers to do so too.