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Animal anxieties

Horses

Concern about the danger of cattle is often expressed, but an incident involving a Scarborough group member is a reminder that caution is needed whenever any type of loose animal is encountered.

While the walker was using a public footpath to cross a field in Allerston parish, a horse approached, and for no apparent reason, kicked him, breaking his arm, which will be in a cast for several weeks.

Had the kick hit his head or torso, it could easily have proved fatal.

The farmer has now been notified of the presence of a dangerous animal (under both civil and criminal law, he is under no liability if he has no reason to be aware of the risk), and reports have also been made to the North York Moors National Park and Ramblers' Central Office.

Although horses can be a nuisance, following closely and snuffling over rucksacks, and even sometimes nudging walkers, a Google search suggests that a direct attack is very rare.

The advice from Central Office is to exercise the same caution as when meeting livestock.
 

Cattle

This is the advice from Central Office:

Do

  • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls, or cows with calves
  • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves
  • Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you
  • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd
  • Keep your dog close, on a short lead, and under effective control
  • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock
  • Report any frightening incidents or attacks to the landowner, the highway authority, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), and also the police if it's of a serious nature
  • Keep us informed of any problems you experience

Don’t

  • Don’t hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle - let it go as the cattle will chase the dog and not you
  • Don’t put yourself at risk by walking close to cattle
  • Don’t panic or run – most cattle will stop before they reach you; if they follow just walk on quietly

Cattle on your path

What do you do when cattle are obstructing the path? Find another way, by going around the cattle. If cattle are blocking a path through a field, you’re well within your rights to find a safe way, away from the path to avoid them. You should then rejoin the footpath as soon as possible – and when you consider it safe to do so.

There are a couple of points that I would add:

1 At a Ramblers workshop, I was told that Central Office had no record of anyone being injured by cattle if the walkers stayed together in a group of more than two, and if they did not have a dog with them.

2 A farmer told me that cattle had a "danger perception zone" of about 30ft.  As a general rule, he said, if you walked quietly and purposefully outside this zone, they were unlikely to perceive you as a threat.
 

Pigs

A farmer told me that if he fell down helpless in a pen with two hungry adult pigs, within an hour the only sign of his presence would be his belt buckle.


Sheep

Maureen and I were once expelled from Farndale by a ram that kept charging at us until we were far enough from its ewes.  This turned out to be a very long way.

Bob Clutson and I once saw a ewe, that was fostering an orphan lamb, snap at a sheepdog that approached too close.  The dog skittered away behind the farmer's legs.
 

So in summary, even a worm can turn...although it is unlikely to pose a serious threat. 

Animals have no conscience, morality, code of ethics, or sense of guilt or remorse.  If you are seen as a threat, they want you far away or neutralised.