I am a 29-year-old woman not from the UK (and not very familiar with cows) who was on holiday in Northumberland. On the 8th June, 2022, I was walking with my partner and my dog on the path between Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle at about 3:30pm.
This path is the ONLY way to see the Castle, which is an English Heritage site and a Grade I listed building in the Northumberland AONB. Additionally, the Castle is a scheduled ancient monument and a National Trust-owned site. I repeat that this path is the only way to view and visit the Castle.
As we were returning from the Castle, about halfway back to Craster, we noticed a herd of cows feeding along the footpath. We had heard that cows can pose dangers to walkers with dogs, so we elected to try to give the cows a wide berth. We decided to try to walk closer to the seashore on the rocks. The rocks by the shore, however, were quite slippery, and I tripped and almost fell on them. Believing that cows do not pose dangers to humans without dogs, but are only threatened by dogs, I elected to go back toward the path while my partner continued with our dog on the rocks by the shoreline.
I began walking closer to the cows, still keeping as much distance from them as possible while not walking on the treacherous slippery rocks by the sea. However, the cows seemed to feel threatened by me, and began circling around me. Seeing this, and likely sensing aggression from the cows, my loyal dog escaped from his harness and ran towards me, then began growling at the cows to try to protect me, and succeeding in getting the cows to back off from me a bit.
Unfortunately, my partner and I were under the impression that the cows would be aggressive only to my dog, and not me. Accordingly, I acted to secure my dog, getting him to come to me and holding him until my partner could come bring the harness. During this time, the cows were circling closer to us.
My partner got our dog back in his harness and on lead and began walking him toward the gate and out of the cow area. I – again believing that cows were not a threat to humans alone – took the time to gather our belongings before following. During this time, one or the cows started following me. I slowly walked away, terrified at the signs of aggression and unsure exactly what to do.
The cow followed me. It was only 3 feet away, following the whole time as I tried to stay calm and escape the enclosure. It was jumping up and down and snorting and looked like it was about to attack at any moment. I was absolutely terrified.
“This was genuinely one of the scariest moments of my life.”
I could sense the cow, right there. hear it panting, see it snorting at me, see the ground move under it as it jumped up and down. My partner, safely through the gate, and sensing I was about to be attacked, shouted RUN. I was now just 10 or so feet from the gate – and so I did run.
Thankfully I reached the gate, managing to escape my brush with intense injury or death.
I am very thankful that my dog, partner, and myself escaped this incident with no injuries. But it was incredibly traumatic and devastating. I never realized cows could be so aggressive toward humans who are minding their own business. I have been horrified to read the tales on this site of vicious cow attacks and think much more needs to be done to raise awareness and to prevent such incidents
I would like for public rights of ways – especially when they are the only route to sites of public interest, like English Heritage / National Trust sites – to be completely separated from cattle pastures and feeding areas. You should not have to fear for your life in order to see historic important sites! Additionally, there should be more warnings and education about this. Most people do not know or are not aware of the dangers posed by cows – especially cows (as opposed to bulls) where no calves are present. Incidents with cows are glossed over and not covered. Finally, farmers need to be held accountable for their cows when they are aggressive.
Every incident should be investigated in my opinion, even if it luckily does not result in injuries.
Respondent ID: 264411259
Photo credit: cropped version of original image, by Tim Simpson on Wikipedia – originally posted to Flickr as Dunstanburgh Castle, and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.