In February 2018, I was walking my dog in the New Forest, in Dibden Purlieu, near to the Heath roundabout.
I was walking along the path with my dog walking to heel, when I saw some cows quite a distance away from me. They were small, with really long horns, and looked like Highland Cattle. They were just quietly grazing, and I didn’t feel concerned.
One of the cows seemed to make eye contact with me, came towards me from quite a distance, and started running at me. I turned to go back the way I came to try to avoid it, but next thing it was right up behind me.
The cow put its horns either side of me – one under each arm – and launched me onto the heath land.
It then went for my head but, fortunately, only removed my bobble hat with a horn. Can you imagine if it had got me in the head? It could have had my eye out.
I got up and told my dog to run. But the cow didn’t seem to be interested in the dog – it was me it attacked. I started running along over the heather, which is not easy in welly boots, and all the other cows started running after me. At one point we were surrounded by them.
I actually thought my time was up – I was absolutely petrified.
How did you escape?
Fortunately, when we got to a certain point, they just stopped running. They all stood mooing at me as if they had won! I managed to get back on another path, and was very glad to still be alive.
The next day, I went out to the same area again with my husband so I could show him where it happened. The cows were in a different area but, from a distance (a very long distance!), we noticed that they had a calf with them. So, although I was not actually anywhere near them before the attack happened, I imagine this might be the reason they attacked me.
My dog is very well behaved, and I have lived and walked dogs in the New Forest for nearly 20 years. I am very careful and respectful of the cows, horses, donkeys that graze there, so I am very surprised this happened to me.
Were you injured?
I had a bad back for a couple of weeks where the cow pushed itself into me – I am only small. My dog was unharmed.
If I had been an elderly person I may not have been able to get up again – or what if I had a small child with me? I dread to think what could have happened.
Did you report the attack?
I reported the attack to the New Forest Pony Association, as this was the only e-mail address I could find. My report was passed on and I had a reply from the Clerk to the Verderers. It wasn’t very helpful. She told me the cow that attacked me was a small Dexter, not a Highland cow. She said that the forest cattle are generally reasonably placid because they are handled regularly and the commoners don’t keep animals they know are aggressive. She suggested the cattle may have become less tolerant of people with dogs because of several dog-worrying episodes, and may have been protecting calves.
She also said there is a problem identifying the individual animal involved, and that they couldn’t order off the whole herd because of one animal’s bad behaviour. The owner was informed and later removed a calf that was in the area.
I think it is terrible to leave a dangerous animal in a common area. If my dog attacked a person once it would be put down. I was so angry but didn’t know where else to go with it – so left it. So glad I found your website.
How has this affected you?
Now, if I see a group of cows, my legs go to jelly. I am petrified of them.
The cows where I walk are not in fields – they are roaming around the forest. That’s the problem – they move all the time from area to area. So one day you might not see any, and then the next you turn a corner and there they all are. Sometimes you can see what area they are in as you drive towards it, but you can’t always see them from the road.
I used to really love walking my dog – but now I am just glad when it is over and I have not come up against a cow!
What changes would you like to see?
It’s just not a nice experience walking in the New Forest anymore. It seems these days there are more and more animals there and they are taking over the forest. On quite a few occasions I have had to turn and go all the way back along the way I came to avoid them.
This has ruined one of the things I found a pleasure – to have a peaceful walk with my dog. It seems to me the cows and their owners have more rights in the forest than dog walkers do.
If they can’t contain the animals to a certain area, then they should cut the amount that are in the New Forest. At the moment, they take over a massive part of the area.
It would just be great if we could avoid them if we wanted to. Would be nice to have cow free ‘Safe’ areas!
Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing your experiences with us. There have been two attacks in the New Forest this year, that we know about. The last one this summer left an elderly woman seriously injured.
If you have had a similar experience, please do tell us via our reporting form.