About

Who we are

We are the COWS (Cows On Walkers Safety), a small group of walkers who have come together to raise awareness of the dangers posed by cattle. Some of us have been badly scared. Some of us have been badly injured. Some of us nearly died.

What we are not

We are not an official organisation. We have no funds and no political agenda. We do not represent farmers, lobbyists, or lawyers. We are not out to make money.

Why we are here

Our aim is to make our footpaths safer for walkers, across England and Wales, by reducing the risk posed by cattle.

How are we doing this?

We have collected information, research, statistics and personal stories, all in one place, to be used as a resource by walkers, by the media, and by anybody else interested in improving safety in our countryside.

  • Statistics are important to help persuade the authorities that this problem is larger and more common than they realise.
  • Stories are important to show that these events happen to ordinary people, people like you and me, who simply set out to enjoy the countryside.

What are we campaigning for?

  1. All farmers who keep livestock to carry personal liability insurance.
  2. All cattle to be separated from walkers on our National Trails.
  3. A central database, where all incidents of cattle aggression against walkers can be recorded across England and Wales.

How YOU can help.

We want to record the stories of people who have been scared or injured by cattle. Please, help us collect this information, and tell us your story, by taking a few minutes to fill in our reporting form.

Support our campaigns by raising the issue with relevant organisations and by spreading the word on social media.

If you want to join our COWS group and help with our work, please contact us via the contact form.

18 thoughts on “About

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  1. I have recently become a convert to walking our long distance national trails and it has to be said, I’m not enthusiastic about doing any more due to concerns about walking through fields of cattle. However, I also have concerns about dogs who are not on leads, having been attacked twice by dogs who thought I was going to attack their owners simply because I was walking towards them on the marked path. However, I digress! I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done but until it does, my national trail walking days are on hold – I will stick to local paths I know well which do not meaning crossing cattle fields.

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    1. Hi Julie, sorry to hear you have been put off walking our national trails. Such a shame, but we share your anxiety about cattle on the footpaths. Also sorry to hear you have had unpleasant experiences with dogs too. Perhaps ALL animal owners need to be more considerate of others. Best wishes.

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  2. I have been around livestock all my life and when walking alone, I generally have no issues with cattle. That completely changes when walking with my dogs. I’ve been harassed, jostled and charged by cows and had to let my dogs go, which for them is dangerous when the choice is get trampled or run towards a road. I’ve seen them chased around a field by cows. My neighbours husband was killed by cows, it’s no joke. I wholeheartedly believe that respect goes both ways. The public must respect the land, keeping dogs under control. In return they must be provided safe passage on public footpaths. This year in particular I’ve seen more cows blocking footpaths and more areas that I’ve been prevented from walking on. It often seems deliberate to keep people away. It would take very little to have a piece of field segregated and would protect lives.

    The comments from a particular ex farmer on here are nonsense and deliberately belittling. Most people avoid cows and walk calmly through fields at distance. I couldn’t pick up by 30kg dogs if I wanted to.

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    1. Very sorry to hear about your neighbour’s husband, Sarah. How awful and tragic. I agree with you about respect going both ways, and there must be a way of balancing the needs of farmers with the rights of walkers.

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  3. I don’t see there to be any reason why Cattle can NOT be behind electric fences. Quite often I see sheep contained with them, and as a walker, I get very anxious. Please please make it law that electric fences should be used.

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  4. Hi, like Cherie I’ve become petrified of walking anywhere near cows, specially with my dog, so my enjoyment of walking is spoiled by my worry about having to cross fields or paths where cows are present. I wasn’t bothered until an incident a few years ago in the Lake District where my husband and I were walking with our dog and got surrounded by cows that were not happy! My husband used to be a stockman working with cows and sheep, and managed to move them on but I found it very frightening and had jelly legs for some time afterwards, and the experience has stayed with me for years. After that I refused to walk our dog through fields of cows, and walks have been ruined by huge arguments between myself and my husband as he thinks I’m being ridiculous. We have public footpaths through parkland directly opposite our home, but I haven’t walked our dog over there for months since cows have been put in all the fields that the footpaths cross and will probably be there for a while yet. The cows were joined by a bull a few weeks ago. My husband insists on taking our dog across the fields every day, even though there are other walks that he could take. I think most of the time he is doing it just to be awkward. I even have sleepless nights about it. There are no signs on any of the field entry gates to let people know there is a bull in the field. I’ve tried to read some of the articles on your website to husband but he is very dismissive and generally blames the people who have been injured or had awful experiences…hence more heated discussions!! I believe that cows should be separated from public footpaths (including those that cross national trails, national trust land etc) and that farmers and landowners should be made to show that rigorous risk assessments have been undertaken for any exceptions where cows have to remain on land crossed by public footpaths. There needs to be more awareness before anything is likely to change, so well done for highlighting the problem and giving people a forum to discuss their concerns.

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    1. Hi Sue. Sorry to hear about your frightening incident and very sorry to hear how this has spoiled your walks in the countryside. We will keep collecting stories and keep campaigning for safer footpaths. Until then, avoiding fields with cattle is a sensible idea.

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  5. As a retired farmer I find your lack of knowledge amazing. All evidence shows that people attacked by cattle have gone among them with a dog on a lead then picked the dog up. If the dog is allowed to run free the cattle will follow and the dog is quite capable of out running cattle. Pick up the dog or stand between the cattle and the dog and you encourage them to focus on you.

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    1. Paul, please read some of the horror stories we’ve collected through our reporting facility on this website. Most people did NOT pick up their dog. In fact, I can’t remember a single case where they did. And many people (2/3 of our reports) were not walking with a dog at all. It’s nice to pick on simple solutions, but the problem is more complex than that.

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  6. I love walking but I’m petrified of cows so if I encounter them whilst on a walk,I always go around I never enter the field,people think I’m silly.i hope one day I’m not so scared and they don’t effect my walking

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    1. Hi Cherie, sorry to hear of your anxiety around cows. Most of the time, of course, most cattle are perfectly safe. But, as our stories demonstrate, there are rare occasions when cows turn into dangerous beasts. You are wise to try to avoid them.

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  7. Awful to read about people being trampled. Truley terrifying. However I don’t see what you can do tbh. Cows live in fields and footpaths cross fields. The cows are a farmers “crop” Are you proposing to compensate farmers for loss of grazing if their cows are moved or to pay for fencing? At the moment there is a hay shortage so it’s not like cattle can be kept in.

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    1. We’re certainly not suggesting cows should spend their lives indoors (as they do on intensive farms in the USA). However the HSE advice is to assess the risk posed by herds and segregate from walkers where possible. There are lots of things farmers can do – and some are very good at doing the right thing.
      For example, they can avoid putting cows with calves in fields crossed by footpaths. They can place feeding troughs away from footpaths, and certainly not near the only gate out of the field. They can provide alternative permissive routes through their farms to avoid cattle – there is a project in Cornwall that is doing this. And they can provide ‘escape’ routes out of fields by ensuring there are climbable fences and removing barbed wire.

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      1. Hi Ruth, I am a farmer and although I can see where you are coming from some of your suggestions are not practical and don’t make sense, ie: not placing feeders near the only gate into the field, if there is only one entrance into the field there is no foot path and no one should be walking through, also the land may not fit to travel on further down the field to get the feed to the feeder. Removing barb wire would obviously cause issues with stock escaping so is simply a bad idea. Having climbable fences also encourages tresspassers to stray off footpaths which makes the other posts about electric fences segregating paths off pointless, I believe there is plenty of rules regarding footpath safety I.e dairy bulls are not to be on footpaths. On our farm of 450 acres. (200 young stock and beef calves, 240dairy cows and 350 sheep the only times Cattle have been an issue is when walkers stray from the paths, when walkers leave gates open instead of using styles, when walkers leave dog shit and the cows come down with neospora and abort calves, when walkers let dogs Chase Cattle through fences or worry sheep eventually causing death. I once approached a man who was heading into a field without a footpath that had our dairy cattle in and the bull, it was their first day at grass so we’re all a bit giddy, the man would not listen to me and proceeded to trespass though the field, I had to go in after him as the cows danced round him, to help him leave the field, this idiot had the audacity to try and say that the cattle should not be in the field, beggers belief

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      2. Hi Rob. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for giving your perspective. Certainly we don’t defend trespassing, or irresponsible dog owners, and understand your frustration. I do think there are a lot of things a sensible farmer can do to protect the public, and this does include providing escape routes, avoiding barbed wire fences (I’ve seen sheep tangled in barbed wire, so not a good idea anyway) as many farms do in Scotland, and certainly not putting cattle feeders near the footpath. (When I said the only way out of the field, I meant the only way out for a walker who has followed a footpath across a field.) There are only s few laws about footpath safety, although there is a lot of “guidance”. The most sensible guidance by the H&SE is to undertake a risk assessment, which responsible farmers will do, but many do not. There must be a way for farmers and walkers to peacefully co-exist and respect each other.

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      3. We only have one single field on our farm NOT crossed by a footpath. Do you know how expensive fencing is??? It’s simply not financially viable to fence in every footpath, and the fences we do have are occasionally cut by someone that wants to take their bike on the footpath and doesn’t like lifting it over the stiles. Would your group be prepared to pay for the fencing, continual repairs, and compensation for the lost grazing for all farms affected? If so, I expect most farms in the country would jump at the chance to better protect their livestock from walkers and their dogs. But if not, then talking about fencing footpaths isn’t very helpful. At least take the time to look at the cost and understand the implications of your comments!

        I am not dismissing anyone’s experiences by the way. Having worked with cattle for years I have been chased more than once, and trampled once (in a barn, not a field). It’s not pleasant, but there are other walks people can do, and complaining without offering a viable solution only pits people against one another.

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      4. Hi Ellie, I do understand about the cost of fencing. However, the cost – and emotional stress – of being sued is something you need to bear in mind. There are plenty of sensible suggestion made on this site, and I hope sensible farmers are already following many of them. As you rightly point out, cattle can trample anybody, and most of the people injured or killed by cows are farm workers. These animals really should be treated with respect, and that includes ensuring that people walking on public footpaths (as they are perfectly entitled to do) should not be put at risk of serious injury or death.

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