Near-miss – Sharon F

I ALWAYS steer clear of cows. I look for them and if I see any around I go elsewhere.

I was on Exmoor, near Tavistock, taking my well-behaved little Labrador for a walk. When I parked up, I saw a herd with very young calves all heading peaceably up the road in the opposite direction. I watched as they disappeared from view.

Thinking it was safe, I got out of my car and began walking with my dog. We were heading in a westerly direction alongside the Down Road, which bisects this part of the moor. Within moments I heard a cow bellow in the distance. Immediately, I stopped and checked to see if there were any cows in sight, but I could see nothing for 360 degrees in all directions. Reassured, I continued walking.

I’d only got about 20 yards from my car when I looked behind me, and saw a brown cow trotting towards me and my dog. She had come from further up the road, and must have been hidden around a bend out of sight. She was 20 yards from reaching my car and coming up fast.

There were nobody in sight. No humans. No other cows. I couldn’t see any calves.

I instinctively knew this was trouble. I wouldn’t be able to get back to my car in time, and had nowhere else to run or hide. Then I spotted some ferns and a gorse thicket on the other side of the road, about 5 yards into the moor. I knew it was my only defence, so I turned and tried to walk as calmly as I could towards the gorse bush.

If the cow changed direction, I knew this would confirm she was after me.

The animal began to cross the road, heading straight for me. She was about 30 yards away, when she broke into a run, charging towards me and my dog.

I ran into the thicket and got behind the gorse bush which was spindly and prickly. I thought if necessary I could get into the middle of the bush, right in between the thorny branches. At this time, I still had tight hold of my dog by his harness, was trying to pull him towards me, and to crouch down to hide. I could see the cow peering into the ferns and bracken, trying to locate me. I remembered that you should let your dog go, so I began to release him.

Suddenly, the cow charged. My dog slipped his harness and legged it. The beast chased me around the gorse bush. It was literally right behind me, and kept on following me. Round and round we went. Several times. I was terrified.

It was difficult to keep going. The bush was only about 1 meter in diameter and surrounded by thick ferns that were impeding my movement. Several times the cow stopped, but I could see it staring at me through the opposite side of the bush.

I’m 54 years old and was beginning to run out of energy. I was scared witless, knowing the cow wasn’t gonna give up chasing me round the bush = like a scene out of the goddamn Magic Roundabout – until it got me. When it was practically on top of me, I knew I had no choice but to jump into the middle of the gorse.

Inside the bush, I felt I couldn’t breathe. I was so scared. My energy was sapped. I was shaking. My legs like jelly.

Still the cow wouldn’t give up. It kept eyeballing me and attempting to ram me inside the bush. So I began shouting. I yelled at it, over and over. The noise startled the cow for a moment, but it didn’t stop attacking the bush. I was trying to grab the thorny branches around me to protect myself.

I was desperately looking for help and I called out to my dog. I think the cow must have seen him, because it moved off. Then my dog appeared and sat down a few meters away from the gorse bush. I looked towards the road and saw the cow had crossed over the road and was standing on the opposite side.

To my relief, I saw a people-carrier van drive slowly past. The driver was woman. She had her window down and was looking in my direction. I screamed for help and she stopped her vehicle. I shouted out and said that the cow was attacking me. At that point, the cow looked like it was coming for me again. The driver saw it and she reversed back to scare the animal away.

At this point, a big green transit van pulled to a stop in the middle of the road, unfortunately blocking my view of the cow. The woman driver was shouting for me to run to her car and I saw her open the back door. But I wasn’t sure I could make it because, when I last saw the cow, it was the same distance from her car as I was.

With the cow hidden from view, I knew I had no other choice but to chance it. I must try to run as fast as I could muster to the car.

So I jumped out of the bush and set off. But my legs buckled underneath me. I fell over flat onto my face. I could hear the woman in the car screaming at me to get up and move because the cow was charging at me again. I got up and made it to the car, somehow, with my dog in tow and the cow bearing down on us.

When I reached the car, I realised my dog couldn’t jump in. Too high. It was a big MPV. I had to lift him up and throw him in. Then throw myself in after.

I closed the door and collapsed on the back seat behind the female driver. I was absolutely drained and terrified. Could barely speak or breathe, as the woman began asking what happened and if I was ok. She let me rest for a few minutes then asked where my car was. It was only 40 yards away.

As we pulled up alongside my car, I saw the cow walking past with a calf in tow.

With the cow out of the way, I needed to go back to find my dog’s harness and the woman drove me back to the scene of the attack. The harness was not in the thicket, where my dog had slipped out of it, but outside near the road. I have no idea how it got there. The lady picked it up for me and then drove me back to my car again.

I didn’t dare get out of her vehicle until the cow was out of sight. I asked the lady to wait until I was safely back in my car, which she did. I could not thank her enough for helping me. She was quite knowledgeable about cow behaviour and told me that cows hide their calves when they go off feeding. The calf was probably hidden nearby.

Later, much later, I phoned my vet who is my friend and also runs a farm with horses, cows and sheep. I broke down sobbing as I was recalling the attack and she said I did the right thing to escape the cow by running into the thicket. She explained that cows have poor eyesight. If it had been able to see me properly, it would have just charged and rammed the entire bush, with me in it. She said it was probably my dog that got the cow’s attention initially, as it was protecting the calf it had hidden.

My vet friend told me that, to the cow, my dog is a predator. Just like a wolf. Because I was with the dog I became a threat by association. She said that cattle become fixated and won’t stop until the threat is eliminated. She also said she has some black cows that she won’t go near when they are calving because they become pure evil. And she’s a vet!

According to my friend, the moor is common land. FIRST priority is for animal grazing, and SECOND for people on it – for whatever reason. She said there was no point reporting the incident because no one would take any notice, or care, because of this hierarchical rule.

Needless to say I am somewhat upset and traumatised. Especially when a lot of my friends and family (without asking the details or acknowledging my abject fear) think my ordeal (being attacked by a mad/angry cow) is clearly hilarious. What’s hilarious about total unadulterated fear?

This incident came from nowhere. I can honestly say the fear I felt was akin to treading water in a shark infested ocean on my own with no boat and no life jacket. Nothing and no one around to help and no escape. Utterly terrifying. I thought I was going to die.


Webmaster’s note: Sharon, thank you very much for sharing your story. We don’t seem to have your email address. You offered some help with social media campaigns. If you are still interested, perhaps you could please contact us?

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